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Full text of "The covered wagon"

The 

COVERED WAGON 



BY 

EMERSON HOUGH 

AUTHOR OF "THE STORY OF THE COW 
BOY/ "THE MAGNIFICENT ADVENTURE," 
"THE MISSISSIPPI BUBBLE," "THE SAGE- 
BRUSHER," ETC. 




D. APPLETON AND COMPANY 

NEW YORK :: LONDON :: MCMXXIII 



COPYRIGHT, 1922, BY 

EMERSON HOUGH 



Copyright, 1933, by The Curtis Publishing Co. 
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 



CONTENTS 

CHAPTER PAG* 

I. YOUTH MARCHES i 

II. THE EDGE OF THE WORLD . 17 

III. THE RENDEZVOUS .... 21 

IV. FEVER OF NEW FORTUNES . . 34 

V. THE BLACK SPANIARD ... 42 

VI. ISSUE JOINED 49 

VII. THE JUMP-OFF 53 

VIII. MAN AGAINST MAN ... 60 

IX. -THE BRUTE 68 

X. OLE MISSOURY 75 

XI. WHEN ALL THE WORLD WAS 

YOUNG 78 

XII.- THE DEAD MEN S TALE ... 85 

XIII. WILD FIRE 90 

XIV. THE Kiss 104 

XV. THE DIVISION 116 

XVI. THE PLAINS 126 

XVII. THE GREAT ENCAMPMENT . . 129 

XVIII. ARROW AND PLOW . . . . 137 

XIX. BANION OF DONIPHAN S . . . 152 

XX. THE BUFFALO 156 

505853 



CONTENTS 

CHAPTER PACK 

XXI. THE QUICKSANDS . . . . . 166 

XXII. A SECRET OF Two .... 174 

XXIII. AN ARMISTICE . . . . . 179 

XXIV. THE ROAD WEST .... 182 

XXV. OLD LARAMIE 187 

XX VI THE FIRST GOLD .... 196 

XXVII. Two WHO LOVED . . . .202 

XXVIIL WHEN A MAID MARRIES ... 208 

XXIX. THE BROKEN WEDDING . . . 220 

XXX. THE DANCE IN THE DESERT . 231 

XXXI. How, COLA! 243 

XXXII. THE FIGHT AT THE FORD . . 261 

XXXIII. THE FAMILIES ARE COMING . 268 

XXXIV. A MATTER OF FRIENDSHIP . 280 

XXXV. GEE WHOA HAW! ... 291 

XXXVI. Two LOVE LETTERS .... 297 

XXXVII. JIM BRIDGER FORGETS . . . 307 

XXXVIII. WHEN THE ROCKIES FELL . . 317 

XXXIX. THE CROSSING 333 

XL. OREGON! OREGON! .... 348 

XLI. THE SECRETS OF THE SIERRAS . 352 

XLII. KIT CARSON RIDES .... 357 

XLIII. THE KILLER KILLED .... 360 

XLIV. YET IF LOVE LACK .... 368 

XLV. THE LIGHT OF THE WHOLE 

WORLD 374 



The 

COVERED WAGON 



The 

COVERED WAGON 



CHAPTER I 

YOUTH MARCHES 

"T" OOK at J em come, Jesse! More and more! 
1 Must be forty or fifty families." 
* * Molly Wingate, middle-aged, portly, dark 
browed and strong, stood at the door of the rude tent 
which for the time made her home. She was pointing 
down the road which lay like an ecru ribbon thrown 
down across the prairie grass, bordered beyond by the 
timber-grown bluffs of the Missouri. 

Jesse Wingate allowed his team of harness-marked 
horses to continue their eager drinking at the water 
ing hole of the little stream near which the camp was 
pitched until, their thirst quenched, they began bury 
ing their muzzles and blowing into the water in sensu 
ous enjoyment. He stood, a strong and tall man of 
perhaps forty-five years, of keen blue eye and short, 
close-matted, tawny beard. His garb was the loose 
dress of the outlying settler of the Western lands 

I 



COVERED WAGON 

three-quarters of a century ago. A farmer he must 
have been back home. 

Could this encampment, on the very front of the 
American civilization, now be called a home? Be 
yond the prairie road could be seen a double furrow 
of jet-black glistening sod, framing the green grass 
and its spangling flowers, first browsing of the plow 
on virgin soil. It might have been the opening of a 
farm. But if so, why the crude bivouac? Why the 
gear of travelers? Why the massed arklike wagons, 
the scores of morning fires lifting lazy blue wreaths of 
smoke against the morning mists ? 

The truth was that Jesse Wingate, earlier and im 
patient on the front, out of the very suppression of 
energy, had been trying his plow in the first white 
furrows beyond the Missouri in the great year of 
1848. Four hundred other near-by plows alike were 
avid for the soil of Oregon; as witness this long line 
of newcomers, late at the frontier rendezvous. 

"It s the Liberty wagons from down river," said 
the campmaster at length. * Missouri movers and set 
tlers from lower Illinois. It s time. We can t lie 
here much longer waiting for Missouri or Illinois, 
either. The grass is up." 

"Well, we d have to wait for Molly to end her 
spring term, teaching in Clay School, in Liberty," re 
joined his wife, "else why d we send her there to grad 
uate? Twelve dollars a month, cash money, ain t to 
be sneezed at." 

2 



YOUTH MARCHES 

"No; nor is two thousand miles of trail between 
here and Oregon, before snow, to be sneezed at, either. 
If Molly ain t with those wagons I ll send Jed over 
for her to-day. If I m going to be captain I can t 
hold the people here on the river any longer, with May 
already begun." 

"She ll be here to-day," asserted his wife. "She 
said she would. Besides, I think that s her riding a 
little one side the road now. Not that I know who all 
is with her. One young man two. Well" with 
maternal pride "Molly ain t never lacked for beaus! 

"But look at the wagons come!" she added. "All 
the country s going West this spring, it certainly seems 
like." 

It was the spring gathering of the west-bound 
wagon-trains, stretching from old Independence to 
Westport Landing, the spot where that very year the 
new name of Kansas City was heard among the emi 
grants as the place of the jump-off. It was now an 
hour by sun, as these Western people would have said, 
and the low-lying valley mists had not yet fully risen, 
so that the atmosphere for a great picture did not 
lack. 

It was a great picture, a stirring panorama of an 
earlier day, which now unfolded. Slow, swaying, 
stately, the ox teams came on, as though impelled by 
and not compelling the fleet of white canvas sails. The 
teams did not hasten, did not abate their speed, but 
moved in an unagitated advance that gave the massed 

3 



THE COVERED WAGON 

column something irresistibly epochal in look. 

The train, foreshortened to the watchers at the 
rendezvous, had a well-spaced formation twenty 
wagons, thirty, forty, forty-seven as Jesse Wingate 
mentally counted them. There were outriders; there 
were clumps of driven cattle. Along the flanks walked 
tall men, who flung over the low-headed cattle an 
admonitory lash whose keen report presently could be 
heard, still faint and far off. A dull dust cloud arose, 
softening the outlines of the prairie ships. The broad 
gestures of arm and trunk, the monotonous soothing of 
commands to the sophisticated kine as yet remained 
vague, so that still it was properly a picture done on a 
vast canvas that of the frontier in 48; a picture of 
might, of inevitableness. Even the sober souls of these 
waiters rose to it, felt some thrill they themselves had 
never analyzed. 

A boy of twenty, tall, blond, tousled, rode up from 
the grove back of the encampment of the Wingate 
family. 

"You, Jed?" said his father. "Ride on out and see 
if Molly s there." 

"Sure she is !" commented the youth, finding a plug 
in the pocket of his jeans. "That s her. Two fellers, 
like usual." 

"Sam Woodhull, of course," said the mother, still 
hand over eye. "He hung around all winter, telling 
how him and Colonel Doniphan whipped all Mexico 

4 



YOUTH MARCHES 

and won the war. If Molly ain t in a wagon of her 
own, it ain t his fault, anyways ! I ll rest assured it s 
account of Molly s going out to Oregon that he s 
going too! Well!" And again, "Well !" 

"Who s the other fellow, though?" demanded Jed. 
"I can t place him this far." 

Jesse W r ingate handed over his team to his son and 
stepped out into the open road, moved his hat in an 
impatient signal, half of welcome, half of command. 
It apparently was observed. 

To their surprise, it was the unidentified rider who 
now set spur to his horse and came on at a gallop 
ahead of the train. He rode carelessly well, a born 
horseman. In no more than a few minutes he could 
be seen as rather a gallant figure of the border cavalier 
a border just then more martial than it had been 
before 46 and the days of "Fifty-Four Forty or 
Fight" 

A shrewed man might have guessed this young 
man he was no more than twenty-eight to have got 
some military air on a border opposite to that of 
Oregon; the far Southwest, where Taylor and Scott 
and the less known Doniphan and many another fight 
ing man had been adding certain thousands of leagues 
to the soil of this republic. He rode a compact, short- 
coupled, cat-hammed steed, coal black and with a 
dashing forelock reaching almost to his red nostrils 
a horse never reared on the fat Missouri corn lands. 
Neither did this heavy embossed saddle with its silver 

5 



THE COVERED WAGON 

concho decorations then seem familiar so far north; 
nor yet the thin braided-leather bridle with its hair 
frontlet band and its mighty bit; nor again the great 
spurs with jingling rowc 1 bells. This rider s mount 
and trappings spoke the far and new Southwest, just 
then coming into our national ken. 

The young man himself, however, was upon the face 
of his appearance nothing of the swashbuckler. True, 
in his close-cut leather trousers, his neat boots, his 
tidy gloves, his rather jaunty broad black hat of felted 
beaver, he made a somewhat raffish figure of a man 
as he rode up, weight on his under thigh, sidewise, 
and hand on his horse s quarters, carelessly; but his 
clean cut, unsmiling features, his direct and grave 
look out of dark eyes, spoke him a gentleman of his day 
and place, and no mere spectacular pretender assum 
ing a virtue though he had it not. 

He swung easily out of saddle, his right hand on 
the tall, broad Spanish horn as easily as though rising 
from a chair at presence of a lady, and removed his 
beaver to this frontier woman before he accosted her 
husband. His bridle he flung down over his horse s 
head, which seemingly anchored the animal, spite of 
its loud whinnying challenge to these near-by stolid 
creatures which showed harness rubs and not whitened 
saddle hairs. 

"Good morning, madam," said he in a pleasant, 
quiet voice. "Good morning, sir. You are Mr. and 

6 



YOUTH MARCHES 

Mrs. Jesse Wingate, I believe. Your daughter yonder 
told me so." 

"That s my name," said Jesse Wingate, eyeing the 
newcomer suspiciously, but advancing with ungloved 
hand "You re from the Liberty train?" 

"Yes, sir. My name is Banion William Banion. 
You may not know me. My family were Kentuckians 
before my father came out to Franklin. I started 
up in the law at old Liberty town yonder not so long 
ago, but I ve been away a great deal." 

"The law, eh?" Jesse Wingate again looked dis 
approval of the young man s rather pronouncedly neat 
turnout. "Then you re not going West?" 

"Oh, yes, I am, if you please, sir. I ve done little 
else all my life. Two years ago I marched with all 
the others, with Doniphan, for Mexico. Well, the 
war s over, and the treaty s likely signed. I thought 
it high time to march back home. But you know how 
it is the long trail s in my blood now. I can t settle 
down." 

Wingate nodded. The young man smilingly went 
on: 

"I want to see how it is in Oregon. What with 
new titles and the like and a lot of fighting men cast 
in together out yonder, too there ought to be as 
much law out there as here, don t you think? So I m 
going to seek my fortune in the Far West. It s too 
close and tame in here now. I m" he smiled just a 

7 



THE COVERED WAGON 

bit more obviously and deprecatingly "I m leading 
yonder caballad of our neighbors, with a bunch of 
Illinois and Indiana wagons. They call me Col. 
William Banion. It is not right I was no more than 
Will Banion, major under Doniphan. I am not that 



now." 



A change, a shadow came over his face. He shook 
it off as though it were tangible. 

"So I m at your service, sir. They tell me you ve 
been elected captain of the Oregon train. I wanted 
to throw in with you if I might, sir. I know we re 
late we should have been in last night. I rode in to 
explain that. May we pull in just beside you, on this 
water?" 

Molly Wingate, on whom the distinguished ad 
dress of the stranger, his easy manner and his courtesy 
had not failed to leave their impression, answered 
before her husband. 

"You certainly can, Major Banion." 

"Mister Banion, please." 

"Well then, Mister Banion. The water and grass 
is free. The day s young. Drive in and light down. 
You said you saw our daughter, Molly I know you 
did, for that s her now." 

The young man colored under his bronze of tan, 
suddenly shy. 

"I did," said he. "The fact is, I met her earlier 
this spring at Clay Seminary, where she taught. She 
told me you-all were moving West this spring said 

8 



YOUTH MARCHES 

this was her last day. She asked if she might ride 
out with our wagons to the rendezvous. Well " 

"That s a fine horse you got there," interrupted 
young Jed Wingate. "Spanish ?" 

"Yes, sir/ 

"Wild?" 

"Oh, no, not now; only of rather good spirit. Ride 
him if you like. Gallop back, if you d like to try 
him, and tell my people to come on and park in here. 
I d like a word or so with Mr. Wingate." 

With a certain difficulty, yet insistent, Jed swung 
into the deep saddle, sitting the restive, rearing horse 
well enough withal, and soon was off at a fast pace 
down the trail. They saw him pull up at the head of 
the caravan and motion, wide armed, to the riders, 
the train not halting at all. 

He joined the two equestrian figures on ahead, the 
girl and the young man whom his mother had named 
as Sam Woodhull. They could see him shaking 
hands, then doing a curvet or so to show off his newly 
borrowed mount. 

"He takes well to riding, your son," said the new 
comer approvingly. 

"He s been crazy to get West," assented the father. 
"Wants to get among the buffalo." 

"We all do," said Will Banion. "None left in 
Kentucky this generation back; none now in Missouri. 
The Plains!" His eye gleamed. 

9 



THE COVERED WAGON 

"That s Sam Woodhull along," resumed Molly Win- 
gate. "He was with Doniphan." 

"Yes." 

Banion spoke so shortly that the good dame, owner 
of a sought- for daughter, looked at him keenly. 

"He lived at Liberty, too. I ve known Molly to 
write of him." 

"Yes?" suddenly and with vigor. "She knows him 
then?" 

"Why, yes." 

"So do I," said Banion simply. "He was in our regi 
ment captain and adjutant, paymaster and quarter 
master-chief, too, sometimes. The Army Regulations 
never meant much with Doniphan s column. We did 
as we liked and did the best we could, even with 
paymasters and quartermasters!" 

He colored suddenly, and checked, sensitive to a 
possible charge of jealousy before this keen-eyed 
mother of a girl whose beauty had been the talk of the 
settlement now for more than a year. 

The rumors of the charm of Molly Wingate Little 
Molly, as her father always called her to distinguish 
her from her mother now soon were to have actual 
and undeniable verification to the eye of any skeptic 
who mayhap had doubted mere rumors of a woman s 
beauty. The three advance figures the girl, Wood- 
hull, her brother Jed broke away and raced over 
the remaining few hundred yards, coming up abreast, 
laughing in the glee of youth exhilarated by the feel 

10 



YOUTH MARCHES 

of good horseflesh under knee and the breath of a vital 
morning air. 

As they flung off Will Banion scarce gave a look 
to his own excited steed. He was first with a hand 
to Molly Wingate as she sprang lightly down, antici 
pating her other cavalier, Woodhull, who frowned, 
none too well pleased, as he dismounted. 

Molly Wingate ran up and caught her mother in 
her strong young arms, kissing her roundly, her eyes 
shining, her cheeks flushed in the excitement of the 
hour, the additional excitement of the presence of 
these young men. She must kiss someone. 

Yes, the rumors were true, and more than true. 
The young school-teacher could well carry her title 
as the belle of old Liberty town here on the far frontier 
A lovely lass of eighteen years or so, she was, blue 
of eye and of abundant red-brown hair of that tint 
which ever has turned the eyes and heads of men. Her 
mouth, smiling to show white, even teeth, was wide 
enough for comfort in a kiss, and turned up strongly 
at the corners, so that her face seemed always sunny 
and carefree, were it not for the recurrent grave, al 
most somber look of the wide-set eyes in moments of 
repose. 

Above the middle height of woman s stature, she 
had none of the lank irregularity of the typical frontier 
woman of the early ague lands; but was round and 
well developed. Above the open collar of her brown 
riding costume stood the flawless column of a fair 

II 



THE COVERED WAGON 

and tall white throat. New ripened into womanhood, 
wholly fit for love, gay of youth and its racing veins, 
what wonder Molly Wingate could have chosen not 
from two but twenty suitors of the best in all that 
countryside? Her conquests had been many since the 
time when, as a young girl, and fulfilling her parents 
desire to educate their daughter, she had come all the 
way from the Sangamon country of Illinois to the 
best school then existent so far west Clay Seminary, 
of quaint old Liberty. 

The touch of dignity gained of the ancient tradi 
tions of the South, never lost in two generations west 
of the Appalachians, remained about the young girl 
now, so that she rather might have classed above her 
parents. They, moving from Kentucky into Indiana, 
from Indiana into Illinois, and now on to Oregon, 
never in all their toiling days had forgotten their 
reverence for the gentlemen and ladies who once were 
their ancestors east of the Blue Ridge. They valued 
education felt that it belonged to them, at least 
through their children. 

Education, betterment, progress, advance those 
things perhaps lay in the vague ambitions of twice two 
hundred men who now lay in camp at the border of 
our unknown empire. They were all Americans 
second, third, fourth generation Americans. Wild, 
uncouth, rude, unlettered, many or most of them, none 
the less there stood among them now and again some 
tall flower of that culture for which they ever hun- 

12 



YOUTH MARCHES 

gered; for which they fought; for which they now 
adventured yet again. 

Surely American also were these two young men 
whose eyes now unconsciously followed Molly Win- 
gate in hot craving even of a morning thus far break - 
fastless, for the young leader had ordered his wagons 
on to the rendezvous before crack of day. Of the 
two, young Woodhull, planter and man of means, 
mentioned by Molly s mother as open suitor, himself 
at first sight had not seemed so ill a figure, either. 
Tall, sinewy, well clad for the place and day, even 
more foppish than Banion in boot and glove, he would 
have passed well among the damsels of any courthouse 
day. The saddle and bridle of his mount also were 
a trace to the elegant, and the horse itself, a classy 
chestnut that showed Blue Grass blood, even then 
had cost a pretty penny somewhere, that was sure. 

Sam Woodhull, now moving with a half dozen 
wagons of his own out to Oregon, was reputed well 
to do; reputed also to be well skilled at cards, at 
weapons and at women. Townsmen accorded him 
first place with Molly Wingate, the beauty from east 
of the river, until Will Banion came back from the 
wars. Since then had been another manner of war, 
that as ancient as male and female. 

That Banion had known Woodhull in the field in 
Mexico he already had let slip. What had been the 
cause of his sudden pulling up of his starting tongue? 
Would he have spoken too much of that acquaintance? 

13 



THE COVERED WAGON 

Perhaps a closer look at the loose lips, the high cheeks, 
the narrow, close-set eyes of young Woodhull, his 
rather assertive air, his slight, indefinable swagger, 
his slouch in standing, might have confirmed some 
skeptic disposed to analysis who would have guessed 
him less than strong of soul and character. For the 
most part, such skeptics lacked. 

By this time the last belated unit of the Oregon 
caravan was at hand. The feature of the dusty drivers 
could be seen. Unlike Wingate, the newly chosen 
master of the train, who had horses and mules about 
him, the young leader, Banion, captained only ox 
teams. They came now, slow footed, steady, low 
headed, irresistible, indomitable, the same locomotive 
power that carried the hordes of Asia into Eastern 
Europe long ago. And as in the days of that invasion 
the conquerors carried their households, their flocks 
and herds with them, so now did these half -savage 
Saxon folk have with them their all. 

Lean boys, brown, barefooted girls flanked the 
trail with driven stock. Chickens clucked in coops at 
wagon side. Uncounted children thrust out tousled 
heads from the openings of the canvas covers. Dogs 
beneath, jostling the tar buckets, barked in hostile 
salutation. Women in slatted sunbonnets turned im 
passive gaze from the high front seats, back of which, 
swung to the bows by leather loops, hung the inevitable 
family rifle in each wagon. And now, at the tail gate 



YOUTH MARCHES 

of every wagon, lashed fast for its last long journey, 
hung also the family plow. 

It was 48, and the grass was up. On to Oregon! 
,The ark of our covenant with progress was passing 
out. Almost it might have been said to have held every 
living thing, like that other ark of old. 

Banion hastened to one side, where a grassy level 
beyond the little stream still offered stance. He raised 
a hand in gesture to the right. A sudden note of com 
mand came into his voice, lingering from late military 
days. 

"By the right and left flank wheel! March!" 

With obvious training, the wagons broke apart, 
alternating right and left, until two long columns were 
formed. Each of these advanced, curving out, then 
drawing in, until a long ellipse, closed at front and 
rear, was formed methodically and without break or 
flaw. It was the barricade of the Plains, the moving 
fortresses of our soldiers of fortune, going West, across 
the Plains, across the Rockies, across the deserts that 
lay beyond. They did not know all these dangers, 
but they thus were ready for any that might come. 

"Look, mother!" Molly Wingate pointed witli 
kindling eye to the wagon maneuver. "We trained 
them all day yesterday, and long before. Perfect!" 

Her gaze mayhap sought the tall figure of the 
young commander, chosen by older men above his 
fellow townsman, Sam Woodhull, as captain of the 

15 



THE COVERED WAGON 

Liberty train. But he now had other duties in his own 
wagon group. 

Ceased now the straining creak of gear and came 
rattle of yokes as the pins were loosed. Cattle guards 
appeared and drove the work animals apart to graze. 
Women clambered down from wagon seats. Sober- 
faced children gathered their little arms full of wood 
for the belated breakfast fires; boys came down for 
water at the stream. 

The west-bound paused at the Missouri, as once 
they had paused at the Don. 

A voice arose, of some young man back among the 
wagons busy at his work, paraphrasing an ante-bellum 
air: 

Oh, then, Susannah, 
Don t you cry fer me! 
I m goin* out to Oregon, 
With my banjo on my knee! 



CHAPTER II 

THE EDGE OF THE WORLD 

MORE than two thousand men, women and 
children waited on the Missouri for the 
green fully to tinge the grasses of the 
prairies farther west. The waning town of In 
dependence had quadrupled its population in thirty 
days. Boats discharged their customary western cargo 
at the newer landing on the river, not far above that 
town; but it all was not enough. Men of upper 
Missouri and lower Iowa had driven in herds of oxen, 
horses, mules; but there were not enough of these. 
Rumors came that a hundred wagons would take the 
Platte this year via the Council Bluffs, higher up the 
Missouri; others would join on from St. Jo and 
Leavenworth. 

March had come, when the wild turkey gobbled 
and strutted resplendent in the forest lands. April 
had passed, and the wild fowl had gone north. May, 
and the upland plovers now were nesting all across 
the prairies. But daily had more wagons come, and 
neighbors had waited for neighbors, tardy at the great 
rendezvous. The encampment, scattered up and down 
the river front, had become more and more congested. 

17 



THE COVERED WAGON 

Men began to know one another, families became ac 
quainted, the gradual sifting and shifting in social 
values began. Knots and groups began to talk of 
some sort of accepted government for the common 
! good. 

They now were at the edge of the law. Organized 
society did not exist this side of the provisional gov 
ernment of Oregon, devised as a modus vivendi dur 
ing the joint occupancy of that vast region with Great 
Britian an arrangement terminated not longer than 
two years before. There must be some sort of law 
and leadership between the Missouri and the Columbia. 
Amid much bickering of petty politics, Jesse Wingate 
had some four days ago been chosen for the thankless 
task of train captain. Though that office had small 
authority and less means of enforcing its commands, 
none the less the train leader must be a man of courage, 
resource and decision. Those of the earlier arrivals 
who passed by his well-organized camp of forty-odd 
wagons from the Sangamon country of Illinois said 
that Wingate seemed to know the business of the 
trail. His affairs ran smoothly, he was well equipped 
and seemed a man of means. Some said he had three 
thousand in gold at the bottom of his cargo. More 
over and this appeared important among the Northern 
element, at that time predominant in the rendezvous 
he was not a Calhoun Secesh, or even a Benton Demo 
crat, but an out and out, antislavery, free-soil man. 
And the provisional constitution of Oregon, devised 

18 



THE EDGE OF THE WORLD 

by thinking men of two great nations, had said that 
Oregon should be free soil forever. 

Already there were mutter ings in 1848 of the com 
ing conflict which a certain lank young lawyer of 
Springfield, in the Sangamon country Lincoln, his 
name was two years ago among his personal friends 
had predicted as inevitable. In a personnel made up 
of bold souls from both sides the Ohio, politics could 
not be avoided even on the trail; nor were these men 
the sort to avoid politics. Sometimes at their camp 
fire, after the caravan election, Wingate and his wife, 
their son Jed, would compare notes, in a day when 
personal politics and national geography meant more 
than they do to-day. 

"Listen, son," Wingate one time concluded. "All 
that talk of a railroad across this country to Oregon 
is silly, of course. But it s all going to be one country. 
The talk is that the treaty with Mexico must give us a 
slice of land from Texas to the Pacific, and a big one ; 
all of it was taken for the sake of slavery. Not so 
Oregon that s free forever. This talk of splitting 
this country, North and South, don t go with me. The 
Alleghanies didn t divide it. Burr couldn t divide it. 
The Mississippi hasn t divided it, or the Missouri, so 
rest assured the Ohio can t. No, nor the Rockies 
can t! A railroad? No, of course not. But all the 
same, a practical wagon road from free soil to free 
soil I reckon that was my platform, like enough. 
It made me captain." 

19 



THE COVERED WAGON 

"No, twasn t that, Jesse," said his wife. "That 
ain t what put you in for train captain. It was your 
blamed impatience. Some of them lower loway men, 
them that first nominated you in the train meeting 
town meeting what you call it, they seen where you d 
been plowing along here just to keep your hand in. 
One of them says to me, Plowing, hey? Can t wait? 
Well, that s what we re going out for, ain t it to 
plow? says he. That s the clean quill, says he. So 
they lected you, Jesse. And the Lord ha mercy on 
your soul!" 

Now the arrival of so large a new contingent as 
this of the Liberty train under young Banion made 
some sort of post-election ratification necessary, so that 
Wingate felt it incumbent to call the head men of the 
late comers into consultation if for no better than 
reasons of courtesy. He dispatched his son Jed to the 
Banion park to ask the attendance of Banion, Wood- 
hull and such of his associates as he liked to bring, at 
any suiting hour. Word came back that the Liberty 
men would join the Wingate conference around eleven 
of that morning, at which time the hour of the jump- 
off could be set 



CHAPTER III 

THE RENDEZVOUS 

AS to the start of the great wagon train, little 
time, indeed, remained. For days, in some 
instances for weeks, the units of the train had 
lain here on the border, and the men were growing 
restless. Some had come a thousand miles and now 
were keen to start out for more than two thousand 
miles additional. The grass was up. The men from 
Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Iowa, Missouri, Kentucky, 
Arkansas fretted on the leash. 

All along the crooked river front, on both sides from 
Independence to the river landing at Westport, the 
great spring caravan lay encamped, or housed in town. 
Now, on the last days of the rendezvous, a sort of 
hysteria seized the multitude. The sound of rifle fire 
was like that of a battle every man was sighting-in 
his rifle. Singing and shouting went on everywhere. 
Someone fresh from the Mexican War had brought 
a drum, another a bugle. Without instructions, these 
began to sound their summons and continued all day 
long, at such times as the performers could spare from 
drink. 

The Indians of the friendly tribes Otos, Kaws, 
O sages come in to trade, looked on in wonder at the 

21 



THE COVERED WAGON 

revelings of the whites. The straggling street of each 
of the near-by river towns was full of massed wagons. 
The treble line of white tops, end to end, lay like a 
vast serpent, curving, ahead to the West. Rivalry for 
the head of the column began. The sounds of the 
bugle set a thousand uncoordinated wheels spas 
modically in motion. Organization, system were as 
yet unknown in this rude and dominant democracy. 
Need was therefore for this final meeting in the in 
terest of law, order and authority. Already some 
wagons had broken camp and moved on out into the 
main traveled road, which lay plain enough on west 
ward, among the groves and glades of the valley of 
the Kaw. Each man wanted to be first to Oregon, no 
man wished to take the dust of his neighbor s wagon. 

Wingate brought up all these matters at the train 
meeting of some three score men which assembled 
under the trees of his own encampment at eleven 
of the last morning. Most of the men he knew. 
Banion unobtrusively took a seat well to the rear of 
those who squatted on their heels or lolled full length 
on the grass. 

After the fashion of the immemorial American 
town meeting, the beginning of all our government, 
Wingate called the meeting to order and stated its pur 
poses. He then set forth his own ideas of the best 
manner for handling the trail work. 

His plan, as he explained, was one long earlier 
perfected in the convoys of the old Santa Fe Trail. 

22 



THE RENDEZVOUS 

The wagons were to travel in close order. Four 
parallel columns, separated by not too great spaces, 
were to be maintained as much as possible, more 
especially toward nightfall. Of these, the outer two 
were to draw in together when camp was made, the 
other two to angle out, wagon lapping wagon, front 
and rear, thus making an oblong corral of the wagons, 
into which, through a gap, the work oxen were to be 
driven every night after they had fed. The tents and 
fires were to be outside of the corral unless in case of 
an Indian alarm, when the corral would represent a 
fortress. 

- The transport animals were to be hobbled each night 
A guard, posted entirely around the corral and camp, 
was to be put out each night. Each man and each boy 
above fourteen was to be subject to guard duty under 
the ancient common law of the Plains, and from this 
duty no man might hope excuse unless actually too 
ill to walk; nor could any man offer to procure any 
substitute for himself. The watches were to be set 
as eight, each to stand guard one- fourth part of 
alternate nights, so that each man would get every 
other night undisturbed. 

r There were to be lieutenants, one for each of the 
four parallel divisions of the train; also eight 
sergeants of the guard, each of whom was to select 
and handle the men of the watch under him, No 
wagon might change its own place in the train after the 
istart, dust or no dust 



THE COVERED WAGON 

When Wingate ended his exposition and looked 
around for approval it was obvious that many of these 
regulations met with disfavor at the start. The demo 
cracy of the train was one in which each man wanted 
his own way. Leaning head to head, speaking low, 
men grumbled at all this fuss and feathers and Army 
stuff. Some of these were friends and backers in the 
late election. Nettled by their silence, or by theii; 
murmured comments, Wingate arose again. 

"Well, you have heard my plan, men," said he. 
"The Santa Fe men worked it up, and used it for 
years, as you all know. They always got through. 
If there s anyone here knows a better way, and one 
that s got more experience back of it, I d like to have 
him get up and say so." 

Silence for a time greeted this also. The Northern 
men, Wingate s partisans, looked uncomfortably one 
to the other. It was young Woodhull, of the Liberty 
contingent, who rose at length. 

"What Cap n Wingate has said sounds all right to 
me," said he. "He s a new friend of mine I never 
saw him till two-three hours ago but I know about 
him. What he says about the Santa Fe fashion I 
know for true. As some of you know, I was out that 
way, up the Arkansas, with Doniphan, for the Stars 
and Stripes. Talk about wagon travel you got to 
have a regular system or you have everything in 
mess. This here, now, is a lot like so many volunteers 
enlisting for war. There s always a sort of prelimi- 

24 



THE RENDEZVOUS 

nary election of officers; sort of shaking down and 
shaping up. I wasn t here when Cap n Wingate was 
elected our wagons were some late but speaking 
for our men, I d move to ratify his choosing, and that 
means to ratify his regulations. I m wondering if I 
don t get a second for that ?" 

Some of the be whiskered men who sat about him 
stirred, but cast their eyes toward their own captain, 
young Banion, whose function as their spokesman had 
thus been usurped by his defeated rival, Woodhull. 
Perhaps few of them suspected the argumentum ad 
hominem or rather ad feminam in Woodhull s 
speech. 

Banion alone knew this favor-currying when he 
saw it, and knew well enough the real reason. It was 
Molly! Rivals indeed they were, these two, and in 
more ways than one. But Banion held his peace until 
one quiet father of a family spoke up. 

"I reckon our own train captain, that we elected in 
case we didn t throw in with the big train, had ought 
to say what he thinks about it all." 

Will Banion now rose composedly and bowed to the 
leader. 

"I m glad to second Mr. Woodhull s motion to 
throw our vote and our train for Captain Wingate 
and the big train," said he. "We ll ratify his cap 
taincy, won t we?" 

The nods of his associates now showed assent, and 
Wingate needed no more confirmation. 

25 



THE COVERED WAGON 

"In general, too, I would ratify Captain Wingate s 
scheme. But might I make a few suggestions? * 

"Surely go on." Wingate half rose. 

"Well then, I d like to point out that we ve got 
twice as far to go as the Santa Fe traders, and over a 
very different country more dangerous, less known, 
harder to travel. We ve many times more wagons 
than any Santa Fe train ever had, and we ve hundreds 
of loose cattle along. That means a sweeping off of 
the grass at every stop, and grass we ve got to have 
or the train stops. 

"Besides our own call on grass, I know there ll be 
five thousand Mormons at least on the trail ahead of 
us this spring they ve crossed the river from here to 
the Bluffs, and they re out on the Platte right now. 
We take what grass they leave us. 

"What I m trying to get at, captain, is this : We 
might have to break into smaller detachments now and 
again. We could not possibly always keep aligrment 
in four columns." 

"And then we d be open to any Indian attack," 
interrupted Woodhull. 

"We might have to fight some of the time, yes," 
rejoined Banion; "but we ll have to travel all the time, 
and we ll have to graze our stock all the time. On 
that one basic condition our safety rests grass and 
plenty of it. We re on a long journey. 

"You see, gentlemen," he added, smiling, "I was 
with Doniphan also. We learned a good many things. 

26 



THE RENDEZVOUS 

For instance, I d rather see each horse on a thirty-foot 
picket rope, anchored safe each night, than to trust to 
any hobbles. A homesick horse can travel miles, hob 
bled, in a night. Horses are a lot of trouble. 

"Now, I see that about a fourth of our people, 
including Captain Wingate, have horses and mules and 
not ox transport. I wish they all could trade for oxen 
before they start. Oxen last longer and fare better. 
They are easier to herd. They can be used for food 
in the hard first year out in Oregon. The Indians don t 
steal oxen they like buffalo better but they ll take 
any chance to run off horses or even mules. If they 
do, that means your women and children are on foot. 
You know the story of the Donner party, two years 
ago on foot, in the snow. They died, and worse 
than died, just this side of California." 

Men of Iowa, of Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, began to 
nod to one another, approving the words of this young 
man. 

"He talks sense," said a voice aloud. 

"Well, I m talking a whole lot, I know," said Ban- 
ion gravely, "but this is the time and place for our 
talking. I m for throwing in with the Wingate train, 
as I ve said. But will Captain Wingate let me add even 
just a few words more? 

"For instance, I would suggest that we ought to 
have a record of all our personnel. Each man ought 
to be required to give his own name and late residence, 
and the names of all in his party. He should be obliged 

27 



THE COVERED WAGON 

to show that his wagon is in good condition, with 
spare bolts, yokes, tires, bows and axles, and extra 
shoes for the stock. Each wagon ought to be required 
to carry anyhow half a side of rawhide, and the usual 
tools of the farm and the trail, as well as proper weap 
ons and abundance of ammunition. 

"No man ought to be allowed to start with this 
caravan with less supplies, for each mouth of his 
wagon, than one hundred pounds of flour. One hun 
dred and fifty or even two hundred would be much 
better there is loss and shrinkage. At least half as 
much of bacon, twenty pounds of coffee, fifty of sugar 
would not be too much in my own belief. About 
double the pro rata of the Santa Fe caravans is little 
enough, and those whose transport power will let them 
carry more supplies ought to start full loaded, for no 
man can tell the actual duration of this journey, or 
what food may be needed before we get across. One 
may have to help another." 

Even Wingate joined in the outspoken approval of 
this, and Banion, encouraged, went on: 

"Some other things, men, since you have asked each 
man to speak freely. We re not hunters, but home 
makers. Each family, I suppose, has a plow and seed 
for the first crop. We ought, too, to find out all our 
blacksmiths, for I promise you we ll need them. We 
ought to have a half dozen forges and as many anvils, 
and a lot of irons for the wagons. 

"I suppose, too, you ve located all your doctors ; also 
28 



THE RENDEZVOUS 

all your preachers you needn t camp them all to 
gether. Personally I believe in Sunday rest and Sun 
day services. We re taking church and state and home 
and law along with us, day by day, men, and we re 
not just trappers and adventurers. The fur trade s 
gone. 

"I even think we ought to find out our musicians 
it s good to have a bugler, if you can. And at night, 
when the people are tired and disheartened, music is 
good to help them pull together." 

The bearded men who listened nodded yet again. 

"About schools, now the other trains that went 
out, the Applegates in 1843, tne Donners of 1846, 
each train, I believe, had regular schools along, with 
hours each day. 

"Do you think I m right about all this? I m sure 
I don t want Captain Wingate to be offended. I m not 
dividing his power. I m only trying to stiffen it." 

Woodhull arose, a sneer on his face, but a hand 
pushed him down. A tall Missourian stood before 
him. 

"Right ye air, Will!" said he. "Ye ve an old head, 
an* we kin trust hit. Ef hit wasn t Cap n Wingate is 
more older than you, an already done elected, I d be 
for choosin ye fer cap n o this here hull train right 
now. Seein hit s the way hit is, I move we vote to 
do what Will Banion has said is fitten. An I move 
we-uns throw in with the big train, with Jess Wingate 
for cap n. An* I move we allow one more day to git 

29 



THE COVERED WAGON 

in supplies an fixin s, an trade hosses an* mules an 
oxens, an* then we start day atter to-morrow mornin 
t when the bugle blows. Then hooray fer Oregon !" 

There were cheers and a general rising, as though 
after finished business, which greeted this. Jesse Win- 
gate, somewhat crestfallen and chagrined over the for 
ward ways of this young man, of whom he never had 
heard till that very morning, put a perfunctory motion 
or so, asked loyalty and allegiance, and so forth. 

But what they remembered was that he appointed as 
his wagon-column captains Sam Woodhull, of Mis 
souri; Caleb Price, an Ohio man of substance; Simon 
Hall, an Indiana merchant, and a farmer by name 
of Kelsey, from Kentucky. To Will Banion the train 
master assigned the most difficult and thankless task 
of the train, the captaincy of the cow column; that is 
to say, the leadership of the boys and men whose 
families were obliged to drive the loose stock of the 
train. 

There were sullen mutterings over this in the Lib 
erty column. Men whispered they would not follow 
Woodhull. As for Banion, he made no complaint, 
but smiled and shook hands with Wingate and all his 
lieutenants and declared his own loyalty and that of 
his men; then left for his own little adventure of a 
half dozen wagons which he was freighting out to 
Laramie bacon, flour and sugar, for the most part; 
each wagon driven by a neighbor or a neighbor s son. 
Among these already arose open murmurs of discon- 

30 



THE RENDEZVOUS 

tent over the way their own contingent had been 
treated. Banion had to mend a potential split before 
the first wheel had rolled westward up the Kaw. 

The men of the meeting passed back among their 
neighbors and families, and spoke with more serious 
ness than hitherto. The rifle firing ended, the hilarity 
lessened that afternoon. In the old times the keel- 
boatmen bound west started out singing. The pack- 
train men of the fur trade went shouting and shooting, 
and the confident hilarity of the Santa Fe wagon cara 
vans was a proverb. But now, here in the great Ore 
gon train, matters were quite otherwise. There were 
women and children along. An unsmiling gravity 
marked them all. When the dusky velvet of the 
prairie night settled on almost the last day of the ren 
dezvous it brought a general feeling of anxiety, dread, 
uneasiness, fear. Now, indeed, and at last, all these 
realized what was the thing that they had undertaken. 

To add yet more to the natural apprehensions of 
men and women embarking on so stupendous an adven 
ture, all manner of rumors now continually passed 
from one company to another. It was said that five 
thousand Mormons, armed to the teeth, had crossed 
the river at St. Joseph and were lying in wait on the 
Platte, determined to take revenge for the persecutions 
they had suffered in Missouri and Illinois. Another 
story said that the Kaw Indians, hitherto friendly, had 
banded together for robbery and were only waiting 
for the train to appear. A still more popular story 

31 



THE COVERED WAGON 

had it that a party of several Englishmen had hurried 
ahead on the trail to excite all the savages to waylay 
and destroy the caravans, thus to wreak the vengeance 
of England upon the Yankees for the loss of Oregon. 
Much unrest arose over reports, hard to trace, to the 
effect that it was all a mistake about Oregon; that in 
reality it was a truly horrible country, unfit for human 
occupancy, and sure to prove the grave of any lucky 
enough to survive the horrors of the trail, which never 
yet had been truthfully reported. Some returned trav 
elers from the West beyond the Rockies, who were 
hanging about the landing at the river, made it all 
worse by relating what purported to be actual experi 
ences. 

"If you ever get through to Oregon," they said, 
"you ll be ten years older than you are now. Your 
hair will be white, but not by age." 

The Great Dipper showed clear and close that night, 
as if one might almost pick off by hand the familiar 
stars of the traveler s constellation. Overhead count 
less brilliant points of lesser light enameled the night 
mantle, matching the many camp fires of the great 
gathering. The wind blew soft and low. Night on 
the prairie is always solemn, and to-night the tense 
anxiety, the strained anticipation of more than two 
thousand souls invoked a brooding melancholy which 
it seemed even the stars must feel. 

A dog, ominous, lifted his voice in a long, mournful 
howl which made mothers put out their hands to their 

32 



THE RENDEZVOUS 

babes. In answer a coyote in the grass raised a high, 
quavering cry, wild and desolate, the voice of the Far 
West 



CHAPTER IV 

FEVER OF NEW FORTUNES 

THE notes of a bugle, high and clear, sang 
reveille at dawn. Now came hurried activi 
ties of those who had delayed. The streets 
of the two frontier settlements were packed with ox 
teams, horses, wagons, cattle driven through. The 
frontier stores were stripped of their last supplies. 
One more day, and then on to Oregon! f 

Wingate broke his own camp early in the morning 
and moved out to the open country west of the land 
ing, making a last bivouac at what would be the head 
of the train. He had asked his four lieutenants to 
join him there. Hall, Price, and Kelsey headed in 
with straggling wagons to form the nucleuses of their 
columns; but the morning wore on and the Missouri- 
ans, now under Woodhull, had not yet broken park. 
[Wingate waited moodily. 

Now at the edge of affairs human apprehensions 
began to assert themselves, especially among the wom 
enfolk. Even stout Molly Wingate gave way to doubt 
and fer^s. Her husband caught her, apron to eyes, 
sitting on the wagon tongue at ten in the morning, 
with her pots and pans unpacked. 

34 



FEVER OF NEW FORTUNES 

"What?" he exclaimed. "You re not weakening? 
Haven t you as much courage as those Mormon 
women on ahead? Some of them pushing carts, I ve 
heard." 

"They ve done it for religion, Jess. Oregon ain t 
no religion for me." 

"Yet it has music for a man s ears, Molly/ 

"Hush! I ve heard it all for the last two years. 
What happened to the Donners two years back ? And 
four years ago it was the Applegates left home in old 
Missouri to move to Oregon. Who will ever know 
where their bones are laid? Look at our land we left 
rich black and rich as any in the world. What 
corn, what wheat why, everything grew well in 
Illinois!" 

"Yes, and cholera below us wiping out the people, 
and the trouble over slave-holding working up the 
river more and more, and the sun blazing in the sum 
mer, while in the wintertime we froze!" 

"Well, as for food, we never saw any part of Ken 
tucky with half so much grass. We had no turkeys 
at all there, and where we left you could kill one any 
gobbling time. The pigeons roosted not four miles 
from us. In the woods along the river even a woman 
could kill coons and squirrels, all we d need no need 
for us to eat rabbits like the Mormons. Our chicken 
yard was fifty miles across. The young ones d be 
flying by roasting-ear time and in fall the sloughs 
was black with ducks and geese. Enough and to spare 

35 



THE COVERED WAGON 

we had; and our land opening; and Molly teaching 
the school, with twelve dollars a month cash for it, 
and Ted learning his blacksmith trade before he was 
eighteen. How could we ask more? What better will 
we do in Oregon? * 

"You always throw the wet blanket on Oregon, 
Molly." 

"It is so far!" 

"How do we know it is far? We know men and 
women have crossed, and we know the land is rich. 
Wheat grows fifty bushels to the acre, the trees are 
big as the spires on meeting houses, the fish run by 
millions in the streams. Yet the winters have little 
snow. A man can live there and not slave out a life. 

"Besides" and the frontier now spoke in him 
"this country is too old, too long settled. My father 
killed his elk and his buffalo, too, in Kentucky; but 
that was before my day. I want the buffalo. I crave 
to see the Plains, Molly. What real American does 
not?" 

Mrs. Wingate threw her apron over her face. 

"The Oregon fever has witched you, Jesse!" she 
exclaimed between dry sobs. 

Wingate was silent for a time. 

"Corn ought to grow in Oregon," he said at last. 

"Yes, but does it?" 

"I never heard it didn t. The soil is rich, and you 
can file on six hundred and forty acres. There s your, 
donation claim, four times bigger than any land you 

36 



FEVER OF NEW FORTUNES 

can file on here. We sold out at ten dollars an acre 
more n our land really was worth, or ever is going to 
be worth. It s just the speculators says any different. 
Let em have it, and us move on. That s the way 
money s made, and always has been made, all across 
the United States." 

"Huh! You talk like a land speculator your own 
self!" 

"Well, if it ain t the movers make a country, what 
does? If we don t settle Oregon, how long ll we hold 
it? The preachers went through to Oregon with 
horses. Like as not even the Applegates got their 
wagons across. Like enough they got through. I 
want to see the country before it gets too late for a 
good chance, Molly. First thing you know buffalo ll 
be getting scarce out West, too, like deer was getting 
scarcer on the Sangamon. We ought to give our chil 
dren as good a chance as we had ourselves." 

"As good a chance! Haven t they had as good a 
chance as we ever had? Didn t our land more n thrib- 
ble, from a dollar and a quarter? It may thribble 
again, time they re old as we are now." 

"That s a long time to wait." 

"It s a long time to live a life-time, but everybody s 
got to live it." 

She stood, looking at him. 

"Look at all the good land right in here ! Here we 
got walnut and hickory and oak worlds of it. We 
got sassafras and pawpaw and hazel brush. We get 

37 



THE COVERED WAGON 

all the hickory nuts and pecans we like any fall. The 
wild plums is better n any in Kentucky; and as for 
grapes, they re big as your thumb, and thousands, 
on the river. Wait till you see the plum and grape 
jell I could make this fall !" 

"Women always thinking of jell!" 

"But we got every herb here we need boneset 
and sassafras and Injun physic and bark for the fever. 
There ain t nothing you can name we ain t got right 
here, or on the Sangamon, yet you talk of taking care 
of our children. Huh! We ve moved five times 
since we was married. Now just as we got into a 
good country, where a woman could dry corn and 
put up jell, and where a man could raise some hogs, 
why, you wanted to move again plumb out to Oregon ! 
I tell you, Jesse Wingate, hogs is a blame sight better 
to tie to than buffalo ! You talk like you had to settle 
Oregon!" 

"Well, haven t I got to? Somehow it seems a man 
ain t making up his own mind when he moves West 
Pap moved twice in Kentucky, once in Tennessee, 
and then over to Missouri, after you and me was mar 
ried and moved up into Indiana, before we moved over 
into Illinois. He said to me and I know it for the 
truth he couldn t hardly tell who it was or what it 
was hitched up the team. But first thing he knew, 
there the old wagon stood, front of the house, cover 
all on, plow hanging on behind, tar bucket under the 

38 



FEVER OF NEW FORTUNES 

wagon, and dog and all. All he had to do, pap said, 
was just to climb up on the front seat and speak to 
the team. My maw, she climb up on the seat with 
him. Then they moved on West. You know, Molly. 
My maw, she climb up on the front seat " 

His wife suddenly turned to him, the tears still in 
her eyes. 

"Yes, and Jesse Wingate, and you know it, your 
wife s as good a woman as your maw! When the 
wagon was a-standing, cover on, and you on the front 
seat, I climb up by you, Jess, same as I always have 
and always will. Haven t I always? You know that. 
But it s harder on women, moving is. They care more 
for a house that s rain tight in a storm." 

"I know you did, Molly," said her husband soberly. 

"I suppose I can pack my jells in a box and put in 
the wagon, anyways." She was drying her eyes. 

"Why, yes, I reckon so. And then a few sacks of 
dried corn will go mighty well on the road." 

"One thing" she turned on him in wifely fury 
"you shan t keep me from taking my bureau and my 
six chairs all the way across! No, nor my garden 
seeds, all I saved. No, nor yet my rose roots that I m 
taking along. We got to have a home, Jess we got 
to have a home! There s Jed and Molly coming on," 

"Where s Molly now?" suddenly asked her husband. 
She d ought to be helping you right now." 

"Oh, back at the camp, I s pose her and Jed, too. 
39 



THE COVERED WAGON 

I told her to pick a mess of dandelion greens and 
bring over. Larking around with them young fellows, 
like enough. Huh! She ll have less time. If Jed 
has to ride herd, Molly s got to take care of that team 
of big mules, and drive em all day in the light wagon 
too. I reckon if she does that, and teaches night 
school right along, she won t be feeling so gay." 

"They tell me folks has got married going across/ 
she added, "not to mention buried. One book we had 
said, up on the Platte, two years back, there was a 
wedding and a birth and a burying in one train, all 
inside of one hour, and all inside of one mile. That s 
Oregon !" 

"Well, I reckon it s life, ain t it?" rejoined her hus 
band. "One thing, I m not keen to have Molly pay too 
much notice to that young fellow Banion him they 
said was a leader of the Liberty wagons. Huh, he 
ain t leader now!" 

"You like Sam Woodhull better for Molly, Jess?" 

"Some ways. He falls in along with my ideas. He 
ain t so apt to make trouble on the road. He sided in 
with me right along at the last meeting." 

"He done that ? Well, his father was a sheriff once, 
and his uncle, Judge Henry D. Showalter, he got into 
Congress. Politics ! But some folks said the Banions 
was the best family. Kentucky, they was. Well, 
comes to siding in, Jess, I reckon it s Molly herself ll 
count more in that than either o them or either o us. 

40 



FEVER OF NEW FORTUNES 

She s eighteen past. Another year and she ll be an old 

maid. If there s a wedding going across " 

"There won t be," said her husband shortly. "If 
there is it won t be her and no William Banion, I m 
saying that." 



CHAPTER V 

THE BLACK SPANIARD 

MEANTIME the younger persons referred 
to in the frank discussion of Wingate and 
his wife were ocupying themselves in their 
own fashion their last day in camp. Molly, her basket 
full of dandelion leaves, was reluctant to leave the 
shade of the grove by the stream, and Jed had busi 
ness with the team of great mules that Molly was to 
drive on the trail. 

As for the Liberty train, its oval remained un 
broken, the men and women sitting in the shade of the 
wagons. Their outfitting had been done so carefully 
that little now remained for attention on the last day, 
but the substantial men of the contingent seemed far 
from eager to be on their way. Groups here and there 
spoke in monosyllables, sullenly. They wanted to join 
the great train, had voted to do so; but the cavalier 
deposing of their chosen man Banion who before 
them all at the meeting had shown himself fit to lead 
and the cool appointment of Woodhull in his place had 
on reflection seemed to them quite too high-handed 
a proposition. They said so now. 

"iWhere s Woodhull now?" demanded the bearded 
42 



THE BLACK SPANIARD 

man who had championed Banion. "I see Will out 
rounding up his cows, but Sam Woodhull ain t turned 
a hand to hooking up to pull in west o town with the 
others." 

"That s easy," smiled another. "Sam Woodhull 
is where he s always going to be hanging around 
the Wingate girl. He s over at their camp now." 

"Well, I dunno s I blame him so much for that, 
neither. And he kin stay there fer all o me. Fer one, 
I won t foller no Woodhull, least o all Sam Woodhull, 
soldier or no soldier. I ll pull out when I git ready, 
and to-morrow mornin is soon enough fer me. We 
kin jine on then, if so s we like." 

Someone turned on his elbow, nodded over shoulder. 
They heard hoof beats. Banion came up, fresh from 
his new work on the herd. He asked for Woodhull, 
and learning his whereabouts trotted across the inter 
vening glade. 

"That s shore a hoss he rides," said one man. 

"An a shore man a-ridin of him," nodded another. 
"He may ride front o the train an not back o hit, 
even yet." 

Molly Wingate sat on the grass in the little grove, 
curling a chain of dandelion stems. Near by Sam 
Woodhull, in his best, lay on the sward regarding her 
avidly, a dull fire in his dark eyes. He was so en 
amored of the girl as to be almost unfit for aught else. 
For weeks he had kept close to her. Not that Molly 
seemed over-much to notice or encourage him. Only, 

43 



THE COVERED WAGON 

woman fashion, she ill liked to send away any attentive 
male. Just now she was uneasy. She guessed that 
if it were not for the presence of her brother Jed near 
by this man would declare himself unmistakably. 

If the safety of numbers made her main concern, 
perhaps that was what made Molly Wingate s eye 
light up when she heard the hoofs of Will Banion s 
horse splashing in the little stream. She sprang to her 
feet, waving a hand gayly. 

"Oh, so there you are!" she exclaimed. "I was 
wondering if you d be over before Jed and I left for 
the prairie. Father and mother have moved on out 
west of town. We re all ready for the jump-off. Are 
you?" 

"Yes, to-morrow by sun," said Banion, swinging out 
of saddle and forgetting any errand he might have 
had. "Then it s on to Oregon!" 

He nodded to Woodhull, who little more than 
noticed him. Molly advanced to where Banion s horse 
stood, nodding and pawing restively as was his wont. 
She stroked his nose, patted his sweat-soaked neck. 

"What a pretty horse you have, major," she said. 
"What s his name?" 

"I call him Pronto," smiled Banion. "That means 
sudden." 

"He fits the name. May I ride him?" 

"What? You ride him?" 

"Yes, surely. I d love to. I can ride anything. 
44 




"I LL RIDE HIM NOW, TO SHOW YOU." 



[page 45] 



THE BLACK SPANIARD 

That funny saddle would do see how big and high the 
horn is, good as the fork of a lady s saddle." 

"Yes, but the stirrup!" 

"I d put my foot in between the flaps above the 
stirrup. Help me up, sir?" 

"I d rather not." 

Molly pouted. 

"Stingy!" 

"But no woman ever rode that horse not many 
men but me. I don t know what he d do." 

"Only one way to find out." 

Jed, approaching, joined the conversation. 

"I rid him," said he. "He s a goer all right, but 
he ain t mean." 

"I don t know whether he would be bad or not with 
a lady," Banion still argued. "These Spanish horses 
are always wild. They never do get over it. You ve 
got to be a rider." 

"You think I m not a rider? I ll ride him now to 
show you! I m not afraid of horses." 

"That s right," broke in Sam Woodhull. "But, 
Miss Molly, I wouldn t tackle that horse if I was you. 
Take mine." 

"But I will! I ve not been horseback for a month. 
.We ve all got to ride or drive or walk a thousand 
miles. I can ride him, man saddle and all. Help me 
up, sir?" 

Banion walked to the horse, which flung a head 
against him, rubbing a soft muzzle up and down. 

45 



5 
THE COVERED WAGON 

"He seems gentle/ said he. "Fve pretty well 
topped him off this morning. If you re sure " 

"Help me up, one of you?" 

It was Woodhull who sprang to her, caught her up 
under the arms and lifted her fully gracious weight 
to the saddle. Her left foot by fortune found the 
cleft in the stirrup fender, her right leg swung around 
the tall horn, hastily concealed by a clutch at her skirt 
even as she grasped the heavy knotted reins. It was 
then too late. She must ride. 

Banion caught at a cheek strap as he saw Wood- 
hull s act, and the horse was the safer for an instant. 
But in terror or anger at his unusual burden, with 
flapping skirt and no grip on his flanks, the animal 
reared and broke away from them all. An instant and 
he was plunging across the stream for the open glade, 
his head low. 

He did not yet essay the short, stiff-legged action 
of the typical bucker, but made long, reaching, low- 
headed plunges, seeking his own freedom in that way, 
perhaps half in some equine wonder of his own. None 
the less the wrenching of the girl s back, the leverage 
on her flexed knee, unprotected, were unmistakable. 

The horse reared again and yet again, high, strik 
ing out as she checked him. He was getting in a 
fury now, for his rider still was in place. Then with 
one savage sidewise shake of his head after another 
he plunged this way and that, rail- fencing it for the 
open prairie. It looked like a bolt, which with a 

46 



THE BLACK SPANIARD 

horse of his spirit and stamina meant but one thing, no 
matter how long delayed. 

It all happened in a flash. Banion caught at the rein 
too late, ran after too slow, of course. The girl was 
silent, shaken, but still riding. No footman could 
aid her now. 

With a leap, Banion was in the saddle of Wood- 
hull s horse, which had been left at hand, its bridle 
down. He drove in the spurs and headed across the 
flat at the top speed of the fast and racy chestnut no 
match, perhaps, for the black Spaniard, were the latter 
once extended, but favored now by the angle of the two. 

Molly had not uttered a word or cry, either to her 
mount or in appeal for aid. In sooth she was too 
frightened to do so. But she heard the rush of hoofs 
and the high call of Banion s voice back of her : 

"Ho, Pronto! Pronto! Vien aqui!" 

Something of a marvel it was, and showing com 
panionship of man and horse on the trail; but suddenly 
the mad black ceased his plunging. Turning, he 
trotted whinnying as though for aid, obedient to his 
master s command, "Come here!" An instant and 
Banion had the cheek strap. Another and he was off, 
with Molly Wingate, in a white dead faint, in his 
arms. 

By now others had seen the affair from their places 
in the wagon park. Men and women came hurrying. 
Banion laid the girl down, sought to raise her head, 
drove back the two horses, ran with his hat to the 

47 



THE COVERED WAGON 

stream for water. By that time Woodhull had joined 
him, in advance of the people from the park. 

"What do you mean, you damned fool, you, by 
riding my horse off without my consent!" he broke 
out. "If she ain t dead that damned wild horse 
you had the gall " 

Will Banion s self-restraint at last was gone. He 
made one answer, voicing all his acquaintance with 
Sam Woodhull, all his opinion of him, all his future 
attitude in regard to him. 

He dropped his hat to the ground, caught off one 
wet glove, and with a long back-handed sweep struck 
the cuff of it full and hard across Sam Woodhull s 
Sace. 






CHAPTER VI 

ISSUE JOINED 

THERE were dragoon revolvers in the holsters 
at Woodhull s saddle. He made a rush for 
a weapon indeed, the crack of the blow had 
been so sharp that the nearest men thought a shot had 
been fired but swift as was his leap, it was not swift 
enough. The long, lean hand of the bearded Mis- 
sourian gripped his wrist even as he caught at a pistol 
grip. He turned a livid face to gaze into a cold and 
small blue eye. 

"No, ye don t, Sam!" said the other, who was first 
of those who came up running. 

Even as a lank woman stooped to raise the head 
of Molly Wingate the sinewy arm back of the hand 
whirled Woodhull around so that he faced Banion, 
who had not made a move. 

"Will ain t got no weepon, an ye know it," went on 
the same cool voice. "What ye mean a murder, be 
sides that?" 

He nodded toward the girl. By now the crowd 
surged between the two men, voices rose. 

"He struck me!" broke out Woodhull. "Let me 
go ! He struck me !" 

49 



THE COVERED WAGON 

"I know he did," said the intervenes "I heard it. 
I don t know why. But whether it was over the girl 
or not, we ain t goin to see this other feller shot down 
till we know more about hit. Ye can meet " 

"Of course, any time." 

Banion was drawing on his glove. The woman had 
lifted Molly, straightened her clothing. 

"All blood!" said one. That saddle horn! What 
made her ride that critter?" 

The Spanish horse stood facing them now, ears 
forward, his eyes showing through his forelock not so 
much in anger as in curiosity. The men hustled the 
two antagonists apart. 

"Listen, Sam," went on the tall Missourian, still 
with his grip on Woodhull s wrist "We ll see ye both 
fair. Ye ve got to fight now, in course that s the law, 
an I ain t learned it in the fur trade o the Rockies fer 
nothin , ner have you people here in the settlements. 
But I ll tell ye one thing, Sam Woodhull, ef ye make 
one move afore we-uns tell ye how an when to make 
hit, I ll drop ye, shore s my name s Bill Jackson. Ye 
got to wait, both on ye. We re startin out, an* we 
kain t start out like a mob. Take yer time." 

"Any time, any way," said Banion simply. "No 
man can abuse me." 

"How d you gentlemen prefer fer to fight?" in 
quired the man who had described himself as Bill 
Jackson, one of the fur brigaders of the Rocky 

50 



ISSUE JOINED 

Mountain Company; a man with a reputation of his 
own in Plains and mountain adventures of hunting, 
trading and scouting. "Hit s yore ch ice o weapons, 
I reckon, Will. I reckon he challenged you-all." 

"I don t care. He d have no chance on an even 
break with me, with any sort of weapon, and he knows 
that." 

Jackson cast free his man and ruminated over a 
chew of plug. 

"Hit s over a gal," said he at length, judicially. 
"Hit ain t usual; but seein as a gal don t pick atween 
men because one s a quicker shot than another, but 
because he s maybe stronger, or something like that, 
why, how d knuckle and skull suit you two roosters, 
best man win and us to see hit fair? Hit s one of ye 
fer the gal, like enough. But not right now. Wait till 
we re on the trail and clean o* the law. I heern there s 
a sheriff round yere some rs." 

"I ll fight him any way he likes, or any way you 
say," said Banion. "It s not my seeking. I only 
slapped him because he abused me for doing what he 
ought to have done. Yes, I rode his horse. If I 
hadn t that girl would have been killed. It s not his 
fault she wasn t. I didn t want her to ride that horse." 

"I don t reckon hit s so much a matter about a hoss 
as hit is about a gal," remarked Bill Jackson sagely. 
"Ye ll hatter fight. Well then, seein as hit s about a 
gal, knuckle an skull, is that right?" 



THE COVERED WAGON 

He cast a glance around this group of other fighting 
men of a border day. They nodded gravely, but with 
glittering eyes. 

"Well then, gentlemen" and now he stood free of 
Woodhull "ye both give word ye 11 make no break till 
we tell ye? I ll say, two-three days out?" 

"Suits me/ said Woodhull savagely. "I ll break his 
neck for him." 

"Any time that suits the gentleman to break my 
neck will please me," said Will Banion indifferently. 
"Say when, friends. Just now I ve got to look after 
my cows. It seems to me our wagon master might 
very well look after his wagons." 

"That sounds !" commented Jackson. "That sounds ! 
Sam, git on about yer business, er ye kain t travel in 
the Liberty train nohow ! An don t ye make no break, 
in the dark especial, fer we kin track ye anywhere s. 
Ye ll fight fair fer once an ye ll fight!" 

By now the group massed about these scenes had 
begun to relax, to spread. Women had Molly in hand 
as her eyes opened. Jed came up at a run with the mule 
team and the light wagon from the grove, and they 
got the girl into the seat with him, neither of them 
fully cognizant of what had gone on in the group of 
tight-mouthed men who now broke apart and sauntered 
silently back, each to his own wagon. 



CHAPTER VII 

THE JUMP-OFF 

WITH the first thin line of pink the coyotes 
hanging on the flanks of the great encamp 
ment raised their immemorial salutation to 
the dawn. Their clamorings were stilled by a new 
and sterner voice the notes of the bugle summoning 
sleepers of the last night to the duties of the first day. 
Down the line from watch to watch passed the Plains 
command, "Catch up! Catch up!" It was morning 
of the jump-off. 

Little fires began at the wagon messes or family 
bivouacs. Men, boys, barefooted girls went out into 
the dew-wet grass to round up the transport stock. A 
vast confusion, a medley of unskilled endeavor marked 
the hour. But after an hour s wait, adjusted to the 
situation, the next order passed down the line : 

"Roll out! Roll out!" 

And now the march to Oregon was at last begun! 
The first dust cut by an ox hoof was set in motion 
by the whip crack of a barefooted boy in jeans who had 
no dream that he one day would rank high in the 
councils of his state, at the edge of an ocean which 
no prairie boy ever had envisioned. 

53 



THE COVERED WAGON 

The compass finger of the trail, leading out from 
the timber groves, pointed into a sea of green along the 
valley of the Kaw. The grass, not yet tall enough 
fully to ripple as it would a half month later, stood 
waving over the black-burned ground which the semi- 
civilized Indians had left the fall before. Flowers 
dotted it, sometimes white like bits of old ivory on the 
vast rug of spindrift the pink verbena, the wild 
indigo, the larkspur and the wild geranium all woven 
into a wondrous spangled carpet. At times also ap 
peared the shy buds of the sweet wild rose, loveliest 
flower of the prairie. Tall rosinweeds began to thrust 
up rankly, banks of sunflowers prepared to fling their 
yellow banners miles wide. The opulent, inviting land 
lay in a ceaseless succession of easy undulations, 
stretching away inimitably to far horizons, "in such 
exchanging pictures of grace and charm as raised the 
admiration of even these simple folk to a pitch border 
ing upon exaltation." 

Here lay the West, barbaric, abounding, beautiful. 
Surely it could mean no harm to any man. 

The men lacked experience in column travel, the 
animals were unruly. The train formation clumsily 
trying to conform to the orders of Wingate to travel 
in four parallel columns soon lost order. At times 
the wagons halted to re-form. The leaders galloped 
back and forth, exhorting, adjuring and restoring little 
by little a certain system. But they dealt with in 
dependent men. On ahead the landscape seemed so 

54 



THE JUMP-OFF 

wholly free of danger that to most of these the road 
to the Far West offered no more than a pleasure jaunt. 
Wingate and his immediate aids were well worn when 
at mid afternoon they halted, fifteen miles out from 
Westport. 

"What in hell you pulling up so soon for?" demanded 
Sam Woodhull surlily, riding up from his own column, 
far at the rear, and accenting the train leader. "We 
can go five miles further, anyhow, and maybe ten. 
We ll never get across in this way." 

"This is the very way we will get across," rejoined 
Wingate. "While I m captain I ll say when to start 
and stop. But I ve been counting on you, Woodhull, 
to throw in with me and help me get things shook 
down." 

"Well, hit looks to me ye re purty brash as usual/ 
commented another voice. Bill Jackson came and stood 
at the captain s side. He had not been far from Wood- 
hull all day long. "Ye re a nacherl damned fool, Sara 
Woodhull," said he. "Who lected ye fer train captain,, 
an when was it did? If ye don t like the way this 
train s run go on ahead an make a train o yer own^ 
ef that s way ye feel. Pull on out to-night. What ye 
say, Cap?" 

"I can t really keep any man from going back 015 
going ahead," replied Wingate. "But I ve counted on 
Woodhull to hold those Liberty wagons together. Anjr 
plainsman knows that a little party takes big risks." 

"Since when did you come a plainsman?" scoffed 
55 



THE COVERED WAGON 

the malcontent, for once forgetting his policy of favor- 
currying with Wingate in his own surly discontent. 
He had not been able to speak to Molly all day. 

"Well, if he ain t a plainsman yit he will be, and 
I m one right now, Sam Woodhull." Jackson stood 
squarely in front of his superior. "I say he s talkin 
sense to a man that ain t got no sense. I was with 
Doniphan too. We found ways, huh ?" 

His straight gaze outfronted the other, who turned 
and rode back. But that very night eight men, covertly 
instigated or encouraged by Woodhull, their leader, 
came to the headquarters fire with a joint complaint. 
They demanded places at the head of the column, else 
would mutiny and go on ahead together. They said 
good mule teams ought not to take the dust of ox 
wagons. 

"What do you say, men?" asked the train captain 
of his aids helplessly. "I m in favor of letting them 
go front." 

The others nodded silently, looking at one another 
significantly. Already cliques and factions were 
beginning. 

Woodhull, however, had too much at stake to risk 
any open friction with the captain of the train. His 
own seat at the officers fire was dear to him, for it 
brought him close to the Wingate wagons, and in ( 
sight if nothing else of Molly Wingate. That young 
lady did not speak to him all day, but drew close the 

56 



THE JUMP-OFF 

tilt of her own wagon early after the evening meal 
and denied herself to all. 

As for Banion, he was miles back, in camp with his 
own wagons, which Woodhull had abandoned, and 
on duty that night with the cattle guard a herdsman 
and not a leader of men now. He himself was moody 
enough when he tied his cape behind his saddle and 
rode his black horse out into the shadows. He had 
no knowledge of the fact that the old mountain man, 
Jackson, wrapped in his blanket, that night instituted 
a solitary watch all his own. 

The hundreds of camp fires of the scattered train, 
stretched out over five miles of grove and glade at 
the end of the first undisciplined day, lowered, glowed 
and faded. They were one day out to Oregon, and 
weary withal. Soon the individual encampments were 
silent save for the champ or cough of tethered animals, 
or the whining howl of coyotes, prowling in. At the 
Missouri encampment, last of the train, and that head 
ing the great cattle drove, the hardy frontier settlers, 
as was their wont, soon followed the sun to rest. 

The night wore on, incredibly slow to the novice 
watch for the first time now drafted under the prairie 
law. The sky was faint pink and the shadows lighter 
when suddenly the dark was streaked by a flash of fire 
and the silence broken by the crack of a border rifle. 
Then again and again came the heavier bark of a dra 
goon revolver, of the sort just then becoming known 
along the Western marches, 

57 



THE COVERED WAGON 

The camp went into confusion. Will Banion, just 
riding in to take his own belated turn in his blankets, 
almost ran over the tall form of Bill Jackson, rifle in 
hand. 

"What was it, man?" demanded Banion. "You 
shooting at a mule?" 

"No, a man," whispered the other. "He ran this 
way. Reckon I must have missed. It s hard to draw 
down inter a hindsight in the dark, an I jest chanced 
hit with the pistol. He was runnin hard." 

"Who was he some thief?" 

"Like enough. He was crawlin up towards yore 
yragon. I halted him an he run." 

"You don t know who he was?" 

"No. I ll see his tracks, come day. Go on to 
bed. I ll set out a whiles, boy." 

When dawn came, before he had broken his long 
vigil, Jackson was bending over footmarks in the 
moister portions of the soil. 

"Tall man, young an tracked clean," he muttered 
to himself. "Fancy boots, with rather little heels. 
Shame I done missed him!" 

But he said nothing to Banion or anyone else. It 
was the twentieth time Bill Jackson, one of Sublette s 
men and a nephew of one of his partners, had crossed 
the Plains, and the lone hand pleased him best. He 
instituted his own government for the most part, and 
had thrown in with this train because that best suited 
his book, since the old pack trains of the fur trade 

58 



THE JUMP-OFF 

were now no more. For himself, he planned settle 
ment in Eastern .Oregon, a country he once had 
glimpsed in long-gone beaver days, a dozen years ago. 
The Eastern settlements had held him long enough, 
the Army life had been too dull, even with Doniphan. 
"I must be gittin old/* he muttered to himself as 
he turned to a breakfast fire. Missed at seventy 
yard!" 






CHAPTER VIII 

MAN AGAINST MAN 

THERE were more than two thousand souls 
in the great caravan which reached over 
miles of springy turf and fat creek lands. 
There were more than a thousand children, more than 
a hundred babes in arm, more than fifty marriageable 
maids pursued by avid swains. There were bold souls 
and weak, strong teams and weak, heavy loads and 
light loads, neighbor groups and coteries of kindred 
blood or kindred spirits. 

The rank and file had reasons enough for shifting. 
There were a score of Helens driving wagons reasons 
in plenty for the futility of all attempts to enforce an 
arbitrary rule of march. Human equations, human 
elements would shake themselves down into place, 
willy-nilly. The great caravan therefore was scantily 
less than a rabble for the first three or four days out. 
The four columns were abandoned the first half day. 
The loosely knit organization rolled on in a broken- 
crested wave, ten, fifteen, twenty miles a day, the horse- 
and-mule men now at the front. Far to the rear, 
heading only the cow column, came the lank men of 
Liberty, trudging alongside their swaying ox teams, 

60 



MAN AGAINST MAN 

with many a monotonous "Gee-whoa-haw ! Git along 
thar, ye Buck an Star!" So soon they passed the 
fork where the road to Oregon left the trail to Santa 
Fe; topped the divide that held them back from the 
greater valley of the Kaw. 

Noon of the fifth day brought them to the swollen 
flood of the latter stream, at the crossing known as 
Papin s Ferry. Here the semicivilized Indians and 
traders had a single rude ferryboat, a scow operated 
in part by setting poles, in part by the power of the 
stream against a cable. The noncommittal Indians 
would give no counsel as to fording. They had ferry 
hire to gain. Word passed that there were other fords 
a few miles higher up. A general indecision existed, 
and now the train began to pile up on the south bank 
of the river. 

Late in the afternoon the scout, Jackson, came rid 
ing back to the herd where Banion was at work, jerk 
ing up his horse in no pleased frame of mind. 

"Will," said he, "leave the boys ride now an come 
on up ahead. We need ye." 

"What s up?" demanded Banion. "Anything 
worse?" 

"Yes. The old fool s had a row over the ferryboat. 
Hit d take two weeks to git us all over that way, any 
how. He s declared fer fordin the hull outfit, lock, 
stock an barrel. To save a few dollars, he s a goin 
to lose a lot o loads an drownd a lot o womern an 
babies that s what he s goin to do. Some o us 

61 



THE COVERED WAGON 

called a halt an stood out fer a council. We want 
you to come on up. 

"Woodhull s there," he added. "He sides with the 
{old man, o course. He rid on the same seat with that 
gal all day till now. Lord knows what he done or said. 
Ain t hit nigh about time now, Major?" 

"It s nigh about time," said Will Banion quietly. 

They rode side by side, past more than a mile of the 
covered wagons, now almost end to end, the columns 
continually closing up. At the bank of the river, at the 
ferry head, they found a group of fifty men. The 
ranks opened as Banion and Jackson approached, but 
Banion made no attempt to join a council to which he 
had not been bidden. 

A half dozen civilized Indians of the Kaws, owners 
or operators of the ferry, sat in a stolid line across the 
head of the scow at its landing stage, looking neither 
to the right nor the left and awaiting the white men s 
pleasure. Banion rode down to them. 

"How deep?" he asked. 

They understood but would not answer. 

"Out of the way!" he cried, and rode straight at 
them. They scattered. He spurred his horse, the black 
Spaniard, over the stage and on the deck of the scow, 
drove him its full length, snorting; set the spurs hard 
at the farther end and plunged deliberately off into the 
swift, muddy stream. 

The horse sank out of sight below the roily surface. 
They saw the rider go down to his armpits; saw him 

62 



MAN AGAINST MAN 

swing off saddle, upstream. The gallant horse headed 
for the center of the heavy current, but his master 
soon turned him downstream and inshore. A hundred 
yards down they landed on a bar and scrambled up the 
bank. 

Banion rode to the circle and sat dripping. He had 
brought not speech but action, not theory but facts, 
and he had not spoken a word. 

His eyes covered the council rapidly, resting on the 
figure of Sam Woodhull, squatting on his heels. As 
though to answer the challenge of his gaze, the latter 
rose. 

"Gentlemen," said he, "I m not, myself, governed 
by any mere spirit of bravado. It s swimming water, 
yes any fool knows that, outside of yon one. What 
I do say is that we can t afford to waste time here fool 
ing with that boat. We ve got to swim it. I agree 
with you, Wingate. This river s been forded by the 
trains for years, and I don t see as we need be any more 
chicken-hearted than those others that went through 
last year and earlier. This is the old fur-trader cross 
ing, the Mormons crossed here, and so can we." 

Silence met his words. The older men looked at 
the swollen stream, turned to the horseman who had 
proved it. 

"What does Major Banion say?" spoke up a voice. 

"Nothing!" was Banion s reply, "I m not in your 
council, am I?" 

"You are, as much as any man here," spoke up 

63 



THE COVERED WAGON 

Caleb Price, and Hall and Kelsey added yea to that. 
"Get down. Come in." 

Banion threw his rein to Jackson and stepped into 
the ring, bowing to Jesse Wingate, who sat as presid 
ing officer. 

"Of course we want to hear what Mr. Banion has 
to say," said he. "He s proved part of the question 
right now. I ve always heard it s fording, part way, 
at Papin s Ferry. It don t look it now." 

"The river s high, Mr. Wingate," said Banion. "If 
you ask me, I d rather ferry than ford. I d send the 
women and children over by this boat. We can make 
some more out of the wagon boxes. If they leak we 
can cover them with hides. The sawmill at the mission 
has some lumber. Let s knock together another boat 
or two. I d rather be safe than sorry, gentlemen; 
and believe me, she s heavy water yonder." 

"I ve never seed the Kaw so full," asserted Jackson, 
"an I ve crossed her twenty times in spring flood. Do 
what ye like, you-all ole Missoury s goin to take 
her slow an keerful." 

"Half of you Liberty men are a bunch of damned 
cowards!" sneered Woodhull. 

There was silence. An icy voice broke it. 

"I take it, that means me?" said Will Banion. 

"It does mean you, if you want to take it that way," 
rejoined his enemy. "I don t believe in one or two 
timid men holding up a whole train." 

"Never mind about holding up the train we re 

64 



MAN AGAINST MAN 

not stopping any man from crossing right now. What 
I have in mind now is to ask you, do you classify me 
as a coward just because I counsel prudence here?" 
"You re the one is holding back." 
"Answer me! Do you call that to me?" 
"I do answer you, and I do call it to you then!" 
flared Woodhull. 

"I tell you, you re a liar, and you know it, Sam 
Woodhull ! And if it pleases your friends and mine, 
I d like to have the order now made on unfinished busi 



ness." 



Not all present knew what this meant, for only a 
few knew of the affair at the rendezvous, the Mis- 
sourians having held their counsel in the broken and 
extended train, where men might travel for days and 
not meet. But Woodhull knew, and sprang to his feet, 
hand on revolver. Banion s hand was likewise em 
ployed at his wet saddle holster, to which he sprang, 
and perhaps then one man would have been killed but 
for Bill Jackson, who spurred between. 

"Make one move an I drop ye !" he called to Wood- 
hull. "Ye ve give yer promise." 

"All right then, I ll keep it," growled Woodhull. 

"Ye d better! Now listen! Do ye see that tall 
cottingwood tree a half mile down the one with the 
flat umbreller top, like a cypress? Ye kin? Well, in 
half a hour be thar with three o yore friends, no more. 
I ll be thar with my man an three o his, no more, an 
I ll be one o them three. I allow our meanin is to 

65 



THE COVERED WAGON 

see hit fa r. An I allow that what has been unfinished 
business ain t goin to be unfinished come sundown. 

"Does this suit ye, Will?" 

"It s our promise. Officers didn t usually fight that 
way, but you said it must be so, and we both agreed. 
I agree now." 

"You other folks all stay back," said Bill Jackson 
grimly. "This here is a little matter that us Mis- 
sourians is goin to settle in our own way an in our 
own camp. Hit ain t none o you-uns business. Hit s 
plenty o ourn." 

Men started to their feet over all the river front. 
The Indians rose, walked down the bank covertly. 

"Fight!" 

The word passed quickly. It was a day of personal 
encounters. This was an assemblage in large part of 
fighting men. But some sense of decency led the 
partisans to hurry away, out of sight and hearing of 
the womenfolk. 

The bell-top cottonwood stood in a little space which 
had been a dueling ground for thirty years. The grass 
was firm and even for a distance of fifty yards in any 
direction, and the light at that hour favored neither 
man. 

For Banion, who was prompt, Jackson brought 
with him two men. One of them was a planter by name 
of Dillon, the other none less than stout Caleb Price, 
one of Wingate s chosen captains. 

"I ll not see this made a thing of politics," said he. 
66 



MAN AGAINST MAN 

"I m Northern, but I like the way that young man has 
acted. He hasn t had a fair deal from the officers of 
this train. He s going to have a fair deal now." 

"We allow he will," said Dillon grimly. 

He was fully armed, and so were all the seconds. For 
Woodhull showed the Kentuckian, Kelsey, young Jed 
Wingate the latter by Woodhull s own urgent re 
quest and the other train captain, Hall. So in its way 
the personal quarrel of these two hotheads did in a 
way involve the entire train. 

"Strip yore man," commanded the tall mountaineer. 
"We re ready. It s go till one hollers enough; fa r 
stand up, heel an toe, no buttin er gougin . Fust man 
ter break them rules gits shot. Is that yore under 
standing gentleman. 

"How we get it, yes," assented Kelsey. 

"See you enforce it then, fer we re a-goin* to," 
concluded Jackson. 

He stepped back. From the opposite sides the two 
antagonists stepped forward. There was no ring, 
there was no timekeeper, no single umpire. There 
were no rounds, no duration set. It was man to man, 
for cause the most ancient and most bitter of all 
causes sex. 



CHAPTER IX 

THE BRUTE 

BETWEEN the two stalwart men who fronted 
one another, stripped to trousers and shoes, 
there was not so much to choose. Woodhull 
perhaps had the better of it by a few pounds in weight, 
and forsooth looked less slouchy out of his clothes than 
in them. His was the long and sinewy type of muscle. 
He was in hard condition. 

Banion, two years younger than his rival, himself 
was round and slender, thin of flank, a trace squarer 
and fuller of shoulder. His arms showed easily rippl 
ing bands of muscles, his body was hard in the natural 
vigor of youth and life in the open air. His eye was 
fixed all the time on his man. He did not speak or 
turn aside, but walked on in. 

There were no preliminaries, there was no delay. 
In a flash the Saxon ordeal of combat was joined. 
The two fighters met in a rush. 

At the center of the fighting space they hung, body 
to body, in a whirling melee. Neither had much skill 
in real boxing, and such fashion of fight was unknown 
in that region, the offensive being the main thing and 
defense remaining incidental. The thud of fist on 
face, the discoloration that rose under the savage blows, 

68 



THE BRUTE 

the blood that oozed and scattered, proved that the 
fighting blood of both these mad creatures was up, 
so that they felt no pain, even as they knew no fear. 

In their first fly, as witnesses would have termed it, 
there was no advantage to either, and both came out 
well marked. In the combat of the time and place 
there were no rules, no periods, no resting times. Once 
they were dispatched to it, the fight was the affair of 
the fighters, with no more than a very limited number 
of restrictions as to fouls. 

They met and broke, bloody, gasping, once, twice, a 
dozen times. Banion was fighting slowly, carefully. 

"I ll make it free, if you dare!" panted Woodhull 
at length. 

They broke apart once more by mutual need of 
breath. He meant he would bar nothing ; he would go 
back to the days of Boone and Kenton and Girty, when 
lhair, eye, any part of the body was fair aim. 

"You can t dare me!" rejoined Will Banion. "It s 
.as my seconds say." 

Young Jed Wingate, suddenly pale, stood by and 

i raised no protest. Kelsey s face was stony calm. The 

: small eye of Hall narrowed, but he too held to the 

s etiquette of non-interference in this matter of man and 

man, though what had passed here was a deadly thing. 

Mutilation, death might now ensue, and not mere 

defeat. But they all waited for the other side. 

"Air ye game to hit, Will?" demanded Jackson at 
length. 

69 



THE COVERED WAGON 

"I don t fear him, anyway he comes," replied Will 
Banion. "I don t like it, but all of this was forced 



on me." 



"The hell it was!" exclaimed Kelsey. "I heard ye 
call my man a liar." 

"An he called my man a coward !" cut in Jackson. 

"He is a coward," sneered Woodhull, panting, "or 
he d not flicker now. He s afraid I ll take his eye 
out, damn him!" 

Will Banion turned to his friends. 

"Are we gentlemen at all?" said he. "Shall we go 
back a hundred years?" 

"If your man s afraid, we claim the fight!" ex- 
claimed Kelsey. "Breast yore bird !" 

"So be it then !" said Will Banion. "Don t mind me, 
Jackson ! I don t fear him and I think I can beat him. 
It s free ! I bar nothing, nor can he ! Get back !" 

Woodhull rushed first in the next assault, confident 
of his skill in rough-and-tumble. He felt at his throat 
the horizontal arm of his enemy. He caught away 
the wrist in his own hand, but sustained a heavy blow 
at the side of his head. The defense of his adversary 
angered him to blind rage. He forgot everything 
but contact, rushed, closed and caught his antagonist 
in the brawny grip of his arms. The battle at once 
resolved itself into the wrestling and battering match 
of the frontier. And it was free! Each might kill 
or maim if so he could. 

The wrestling grips of the frontiersmen were few 

70 



THE BRUTE 

and primitive, efficient when applied by masters; and 
:no schoolboy but studied all the holds as matter of 
i religion, in a time when physical prowess was the most 
.admirable quality a man might have. 

Each fighter tried the forward jerk and trip which 
: sometimes would do with an opponent not much 
: skilled; but this primer work got results for neither. 
Banion evaded and swung into a hip lock, so swift 
tthat Woodhull left the ground. But his instinct gave 
!him hold with one hand at his enemy s collar. He 
spread wide his feet and cast his weight aside, so that 
he came standing, after all. He well knew that a man 
:rnust keep his feet. Woe to him who fell when it all 
was free! His own riposte was a snakelike glide close 
ilnto his antagonist s arms, a swift thrust of his leg 
between the other s the grapevine, which sometimes 
served if done swiftly. 

It was done swiftly, but it did not serve. The other 
: spread his legs, leaned against him, and in a flash came 
Iback in the dreaded crotch lock of the frontier, which 
isome men boasted no one could escape at their hands. 
Woodhull was flung fair, but he broke wide and rose 
-and rushed back and joined again, grappling; so that 
ithey stood once more body to body, panting, red, 
; savage as any animals that fight, and more cruel. The 
seconds all were on their feet, scarce breathing. 

They pushed in sheer test, and each found the 

other s stark strength. Yet Banion s breath still came 

< even, his eye betokened no anxiety of the issue. Both 



THE COVERED WAGON 

were bloody now, clothing and all. Then in a flash the 
scales turned against the challenger a I entrance. 

Banion caught his antagonist by the wrist, and swift 
as a flash stooped, turning his own back and drawing 
the arm of his enemy over his own shoulder, slightly 
turned, so that the elbow joint was in peril and so that 
the pain must be intense. It was one of the jiu jitsu 
holds, discovered independently perhaps at that instant ; 
certainly a new hold for the wrestling school of the 
frontier. 

Woodhull s seconds saw the look of pain come on 
his face, saw him wince, saw him writhe, saw him 
rise on his toes. Then, with a sudden squatting heave, 
Banion cast him full length in front of him, upon his 
back! Before he had time to move he was upon him, 
pinning him down. A growl came from six observers. 

In an ordinary fall a man might have turned, might 
have escaped. But Woodhull had planned his own 
undoing when he had called it free. Eyeless men, 
usually old men, in this day brought up talk of the 
ancient and horrible warfare of a past generation, when 
destruction of the adversary was the one purpose and 
any means called fair when it was free. 

But the seconds of both men raised no hand when 
they saw the balls of Will Banion s thumbs pressed 
against the upper orbit edge of his enemy s eyes. 

"Do you say enough?" panted the victor. 

A groan from the helpless man beneath. 



THE BRUTE 

"Am I the best man? Can I whip you?" demanded 
the voice above him, in the formula prescribed. 

"Go on do it! Pull out his eye!" commanded Bill 
Jackson savagely. "He called it free to you! But 
don t wait!" 

But the victor sprang free, stood, dashed the blood 
from his own eyes, wavered on his feet. 

The hands of his fallen foe were across his eyes. 
But even as his men ran in, stooped and drew them 
away the conqueror exclaimed: 

"Fll not! I tell you I won t maim you, free or no 
free! Get up!" 

So Woodhull knew his eyes were spared, whatever 
might be the pain of the sore nerves along the socket 
bone. 

He rose to his knees, to his feet, his face ghastly in 
his own sudden sense of defeat, the worse for his 
victor s magnanimity, if such it might be called. 
Humiliation was worse than pain. He staggered, 
sobbing. 

"I won t take nothing for a gift from you!" 

But now the men stood between them, like and like. 
Young Jed Wingate pushed back his man. 

"It s done!" said he. "You shan t fight no more 
with the man that let you up. You re whipped, and 
by your own word it d have been worse!" 

He himself handed Will Banion his coat. 
73 



THE COVERED WAGON 

"Go get a pail of water," he said to Kelsey, and the 
latter departed. 

Banion stepped apart, battered and pale beneath his 
own wounds. 

"I didn t want to fight him this way," said he. "I 
left him his eyes so he can see me again. If so he 
wants, I ll meet him any way. I hope he won t rue 
back." 

"You fool !" said old Bill Jackson, drawing Banion 
to one side. "Do ye know what ye re a-sayin ? Whiles 
he was a-layin thar I seen the bottoms o his boots. 
Right fancy they was, with smallish heels! That 
skunk ll kill ye in the dark, [Will. Ye d orto hev put 
out n both his two eyes!" 

A sudden sound made them all turn. Came crackling 
of down brush, the scream of a woman s voice. At 
the side of the great tree stood a figure that had no 
right there. They turned mute. 

It was Molly Wingate who faced them all now, 
turning from one bloody, naked figure to the other. 
She saw Sam Woodhull standing, his hands still at 
his face; caught some sense out of Jackson s words, 
overheard as she came into the clearing. 

"You!" she blazed at Will Banion. "You d put 
out a man s eyes ! You brute !" 



) 



CHAPTER X 

OLE MISSOURY 

MOLLY WINGATE looked from one to the 
other of the group of silent, shamefaced 
men. Puzzled, she turned again to the 
victor in the savage combat. 

"You!" 

Will Banion caught up his clothing, turned away. 

"You are right!" said he. "I have been a brute! 
Good-by!" 

An instant later Molly found herself alone with 
the exception of her brother. 

"You, Jed, what was this?" she demanded. 

Jed took a deep and heartfelt chew of plug. 

"Well, it was a little argument between them two," 
he said finally. "Like enough a little jealousy, like, 
you know over place in the train, or something. This 
here was for men. You d no business here." 

"But it was a shame!" 

"I reckon so." 

"Who started this?" 

"Both of them. All we was here for was to see fair. 
Men got to fight sometimes." 

"But not like animals, not worse than savages!" 

"Well, it was right savage, some of the time, sis." 

"They said about eyes oh !" 
75 



THE COVERED WAGON 

The girl shivered, her hands at her own eyes. 

"Yes, they called it free. Anybody else, Sam Wood- 
hull d be sorry enough right now. T other man 
throwed him clean and had him down, but he let him 
up. He didn t never hurt Sam s eyes, only pinched 
his head a little. He had a right, but didn t. It had 
to be settled and it was settled, fair and more n fair, 
by him." 

"But, Jed" the eternal female now "then, which 
one really whipped?" 

"Will Banion did, ain t I told you? You insulted 
him, and he s gone. Having come in here where you 
wasn t no ways wanted, I reckon the best thing you 
can do is to go back to your own wagon and stay 
there. What with riding horses you hadn t ought, 
and seeing fights when you don t know a damned thing 
about nothing, I reckon you ve made trouble about 
enough. Come on !" 

"Price," said Bill Jackon to the grave and silent man 
who walked with him toward the wagon train beyond 
the duelling ground, "this settles hit. Us Missoury 
wagons won t go on under no sech man as Sam Wood- 
hull. We didn t no ways eleck him he was app inted. 
Mostly, elected is better n app inted. An I seen afore 
now, no man can hold his place on the trail unless n 
he s fitten. We ll eleck Will Banion our cap n, an you 
fellers kin go to hell. What us fellers started out to 
do was to go to Oregon." 

"But that ll mean the train s split!" 
76 



OLE MISSOURY 

"Shore hit will! Hit is split right now. But thar s 
enough o the Liberty wagons to go through without 
no help. We kin whup all the rest o this train, give 
we need ter, let alone a few Injuns now an then. 

"To-night," he concluded, "we ll head up the river, 
an leave you fellers the boat an all o Papin s Ferry 
to git acrost the way you want. Thar hain t no man 
ner o man, outfit, river er redskin that Ole Missoury 
kain t lick, take em as they come, them to name the 
holts an the rules. We done showed you-all that. 
We re goin to show you some more. So good-by." 
He held out his hand. "Ye helped see far, an ye re 
a far man, an we ll miss ye. Ef ye git in need o 
help come to us. Ole Missoury won t need no help." 

"Well, Woodhull s one of you Missourians," re 
marked Price. 

"Yes, but he ain t bred true. Major Banion is. Hit 
was me that made him fight knuckle an skull an not 
with weepons. He didn t want to, but I had a reason. 
I m content an soothe jest the way she lies. Ef Will 
never sees the gal agin she ain t wuth the seein*. 

"Ye ll find Col. William Banion at the head o his 
own train. He s ntten, an he s fout an proved hit." 



CHAPTER XI 

WHEN ALL THE WORLD WAS YOUNG 

MOLLY WINGATE kneeled by her cooking 
fire the following morning, her husband 
meantime awaiting the morning meal impa 
tiently. All along the medley of crowded wagons rose 
confused sounds of activity at a hundred similar fire 
sides. 

"Where s Little Molly?" demanded Wingate. "We 
got to be up and coming." 

"Her and Jed is off after the cattle. Well, you 
heard the news last night. You ve got to get some 
one else to run the herd. If each family drives its 
own loose stock everything 11 be all mixed up. The Lib 
erty outfit pulled on by at dawn. Well, anyways they 
left us the sawmill and the boat. 

"Sam Woodhull, he s anxious to get on ahead of the 
Missourians," she added. "He says he ll take the boat 
anyhow, and not pay them Kaws any such hold-up 
price like they ask." 

"All I got to say is, I wish we were across," grum 
bled Wingate, stooping to the bacon spider. 

"Huh ! So do I me and my bureau and my hens. 
Yes, after you ve fussed around a while you men ll 
maybe come to the same conclusion your head cow; 

78 



WHEN THE WORLD WAS YOUNG 

guard had ; you ll be making more boats and doing less 
swimming. I m sorry he quit us." 

"It s the girl," said her husband sententiously. 

"Yes. But" smiling grimly "one furse don t 
make a parting." 

"She s same as promised Sam Woodhull, Molly, 
and you know that." 

"Before he got whipped by Colonel Banion." 

"Colonel ! Fine business for an officer ! Woodhull 
told me he tripped and this other man was on top of 
him and nigh gouged out his two eyes. And he told 
me other things too. Banion s a traitor, to split the 
train. We can spare all such." 

"Can we?" rejoined his wife. "I sort of thought 
> 

"Never mind what you thought He s one of the 
unruly, servigerous sort ; can t take orders, and a trou 
ble maker always. We ll show that outfit. I ve ordered 
three more scows built and the seams calked in the 
wagon boxes." 

Surely enough, the Banion plan of crossing, after 
all, was carried out, and although the river dropped a 
foot meantime, the attempt to ford en masse was aban 
doned. Little by little the wagon parks gathered on 
the north bank, each family assorting its own goods 
and joining in the general sauve qui peut. 

Nothing was seen of the Missouri column, but ru 
mor said they were ferrying slowly, with one boat and 
their doubled wagon boxes, over which they had nailed 

79 



THE COVERED WAGON 

hides. Woodhull was keen to get on north ahead of 
this body. He had personal reasons for that. None 
too well pleased at the smiles with which his explana 
tions of his bruised face were received, he made a 
sudden resolution to take a band of his own immediate 
neighbors and adherents and get on ahead of the Mis- 
sourians. He based his decision, as he announced it, 
on the necessity of a scouting party to locate grass and 
water. 

Most of the men who joined him were single men, 
of the more restless sort. There were no family wag 
ons with them. They declared their intention of trav 
eling fast and light until they got among the buffalo. 
This party left in advance of the main caravan, which 
had not yet completed the crossing of the Kaw. 

"Roll out! Ro-o-o-11 out!" came the mournful com 
mand at last, once more down the line. 

It fell on the ears of some who were unwilling to 
obey. The caravan was disintegrating at the start. 
The gloom cast by the long delay at the ford had now 
resolved itself in certain instances into fear amounting 
half to panic. Some companies of neighbors said the 
entire train should wait for the military escort; others 
declared they would not go further west, but would 
turn back and settle here, where the soil was so good. 
Still others said they all should lie here, with good 
grass and water, until further word came from the 
Platte Valley train and until they had more fully de 
cided what to do. In spite of all the officers could do, 

80 



WHEN THE WORLD WAS YOUNG 

the general advance was strung out over two or three 
miles. The rapid loss in order, these premature divi 
sions of the train, augured ill enough. 

The natural discomforts of the trail now also began 
to have their effect. A plague of green-headed flies 
and flying ants assailed them by day, and at night the 
mosquitoes made an affliction well-nigh insufferable. 
The women and children could not sleep, the horses 
groaned all night under the clouds of tormentors which 
gathered on them. Early as it was, the sun at times 
blazed with intolerable fervor, or again the heat broke 
in savage storms of thunder, hail and rain. All the 
elements, all the circumstances seemed in league to 
warn them back before it was too late, for indeed 
they were not yet more than on the threshold of the 
Plains. 

The spring rains left the ground soft in places, so 
that in creek valleys stretches of corduroy sometimes 
had to be laid down. The high waters made even the 
lesser fords difficult and dangerous, and all knew that 
between them and the Platte ran several strong and 
capricious rivers, making in general to the southeast 
and necessarily transected by the great road to Oregon. 

They still were in the eastern part of what is now 
the state of Kansas, one of the most beautiful and 
exuberantly rich portions of the country, as all early 
travelers declared. The land lay in a succession of 
timber-lined valleys and open prairie ridges. Groves 
of walnut, oak, hickory, elm, ash at first were fre- 

81 



THE COVERED WAGON 

quent, slowly changing, farther west, to larger 
portions of poplar, willow and cottonwood. The whits 
dogwood passed to make room for scattering thickets 
of wild plum. Wild tulips, yellow or of broken colors ; 
the campanula, the wild honeysuckle, lupines not yet 
quite in bloom the sweetbrier and increasing quanti 
ties of the wild rose gave life to the always changing 
scene. Wild game of every sort was unspeakably 
abundant deer and turkey in every bottom, thou 
sands of grouse on the hills, vast flocks of snipe and 
plover, even numbers of the green parrakeets then so 
numerous along that latitude. The streams abounded 
in game fish. All Nature was easy and generous. 

Men and women grumbled at leaving so rich and 
beautiful a land lying waste. None had seen a coun 
try more supremely attractive. Emotions of tender 
ness, of sadness, also came to many. Nostalgia was 
not yet shaken off. This strained condition of nerves, 
combined with the trail hardships, produced the physi 
cal irritation which is inevitable in all amateur pioneer 
work. Confusions, discordances, arising over the most 
trifling circumstances, grew into petulance, incivility, 
wrangling and intrigue, as happened in so many other 
earlier caravans. In the Babel-like excitement of the 
morning catch-up, amid the bellowing and running of 
the cattle evading the yoke, more selfishness, less 
friendly accommodation now appeared, and men met 
without speaking, even this early on the road. 

The idea of four parallel columns had long since 
82 



WHEN THE WORLD WAS YOUNG 

been discarded. They broke formation, and at times 
the long caravan, covering the depressions and emi 
nences of the prairie, wound along in mile-long detach 
ments, each of which hourly grew more surly and more 
independent. Overdriven oxen now began to drop. 
By the time the prairies proper were reached more than 
a score of oxen had died. They were repeating trail 
history as recorded by the travelers of that day. 

Personal and family problems also made divisions 
more natural. Many suffered from ague; fevers were 
very common. An old woman past seventy died one 
night and was buried by the wayside the next day. 
Ten days after the start twins were born to parents 
moving out to Oregon. There were numbers of young 
children, many of them in arms, who became ill. For 
one or other cause, wagons continually were dropping 
out. It was difficult for some wagons to keep up, the 
unseasoned oxen showing distress under loads too 
heavy for their draft. It was by no means a solid and 
compact army, after all, this west-bound wave of the 
first men with plows. All these things sat heavily on 
the soul of Jesse Wingate, who daily grew more 
morose and grim. 

As the train advanced bands of antelope began to 
appear. The striped prairie gophers gave place to the 
villages of countless barking prairie dogs, curious to 
the eyes of the newcomers. At night the howling and 
snarling of gray wolves now made regular additions to 
the coyote chorus and the voices of the owls and whip- 

83 



THE COVERED WAGON 

poorwills. Little by little, day by day, civilization was 
passing, the need for organization daily became more 
urgent. Yet the original caravan had split practically 
into three divisions within a hundred and fifty miles 
from the jump-off, although the bulk of the train hung 
to Wingate s company and began to shake down, at 
least into a sort of tolerance. 

Granted good weather, as other travelers had writ 
ten, it was indeed impossible to evade the sense of 
exhilaration in the bold, free life. At evening encamp, 
ment the scene was one worthy of any artist of all the 
world. The oblong of the wagon park, the white tents, 
the many fires, made a spectacle of marvelous charm 
and power. Perhaps within sight, at one time, under 
guard for the evening feed on the fresh young grass, 
there would be two thousand head of cattle. In the 
wagon village men, women and children would be en 
gaged as though at home. There was little idleness 
in the train, and indeed there was much gravity and 
devoutness in the personnel. At one fireside the young 
men might be roaring "Old Grimes is dead, that good 
old man," or "Oh, then, Susannah" ; but quite as likely 
close at hand some family group would be heard in 
sacred hymns. A strange envisagement it all made, in 
a strange environment, a new atmosphere, here on the 
threshold of the wilderness. 1 

1 To get the local descriptions, the color, atmosphere, "feel" of 
a day and a country so long gone by, any writer of to-day must 
go to writers of another day. The Author would acknowledge 
free use of the works of Palmer, Bryant, Kelly and others who 
give us journals of the great transcontinental trail 

8 4 



CHAPTER XII 



THE DEAD MEN S TALE 



THE COVERED WAGON 

The column leaders all galloped forward, seeing first 
what later most of the entire train saw the abom 
inable phenomena of Indian warfare on the Plains. 

Scattered over a quarter of a mile, where the wag 
ons had stood not grouped and perhaps not guarded, 
lay heaps of wreckage beside heaps of ashes. One by 
one the corpses were picked out, here, there, over more 
than a mile of ground. They had fought, yes, but 
fought each his own losing individual battle after what 
had been a night surprise. 

The swollen and blackened features of the dead 
men stared up, mutilated as savages alone mark the 
fallen. Two w r ere staked out, hand and foot, and ashes 
lay near them, upon them. Arrows stood up between 
the ribs of the dead men, driven through and down 
into the ground. A dozen mules, as Jackson had said, 
drooped with low heads and hanging ears, arrow shafts 
standing out of their paunches, waiting for death to 
end their agony. 

"Finish them, Jackson." 

Wingate handed the hunter his own revolver, sig 
naling for Kelsey and Hall to do the same. The 
methodical cracking of the hand arms began to end 
the suffering of the animals. 

They searched for scraps of clothing to cover the 
faces of the dead, the bodies of some dead. They 
motioned the women and children back when the head 
of the train came up. Jackson beckoned the leaders 
to the side of one wagon, partially burned. 

86 



THE DEAD MEN S TALE 

"Look," said he, pointing. 

A long stick, once a whipstock, rose from the front 
of the wagon bed. It had been sharpened and thrust 
under the wrist skin of a human hand a dried hand, 
not of a white man, but a red. A half -corroded brace 
let of copper still clung to the wrist. 

"If I read signs right, that s why!" commented Bill 
Jackson. 

"But how do you explain it?" queried Hall. "Why 
should they do that? And how could they, in so close 
a fight?" 

"They couldn t," said Jackson. "That hand s a day 
an a half older than these killings. Hit s Sam Wood- 
i hull s wagon. Well, the Pawnees like enough counted 
coup on the man that swung that hand up for a sign, 
even if hit wasn t one o their own people." 

"Listen, men," he concluded, "hit was WoodhulFs 
fault. We met some friendlies Kaws from the 
mission, an they was mournin . A half dozen o them 
follered Woodhull out above the ferry when he pulled 
out. They told him he hadn t paid them for their boat, 
asked him for more presents. He got mad, so they 
say, an shot down one o them an stuck up his hand 
| fer a warnin , so he said. 

"The Kaws didn t do this killin . This band of 
awnees was away down below their range. The 

,ws said they was comin fer a peace council, to git 
the Kaws an Otoes to raise against us whites, comin 
out so many, with plows and womern folks they savvy. 






THE COVERED WAGON 

Well, the Kaws has showed the Pawnees. The Paw* 
nees has showed us." 

"Yes," said the deep voice of Caleb Price, property 
owner and head of a family; "they ve showed us that 
Sam Woodhull was not fit to trust. There s one man 
that is." 

"Do you want him along with your wagons?" de 
manded Jackson. He turned to Wingate. 

"Well," said the train captain after a time, "we are 
striking the Indian country now." 

"Shall I bring up our wagons an* jine ye all here at 
the ford this evenin ?" 

"I can t keep you from coming on up the road if 
you want to. I ll not ask you." 

"All right ! We ll not park with ye then. But we ll 
be on the same water. Hit s my own fault we split. 
We wouldn t take orders from Sam Woodhull, an 
we never will." 

He nodded to the blackened ruins, to the grim dead 
hand pointing to the sky, left where it was by the super 
stitious blood avengers. 

Wingate turned away and led the wagon train a half 
mile up the stream, pitching camp above the ford where 
the massacre had occurred. The duties of the clergy 
and the appointed sextons were completed Silence 
and sadness fell on the encampment. 

Jackson, the scout of the Missouri column, still 
lingered for some sort of word with Molly Wingate. 
Some odds and ends of brush lay about. Of the latter 

88 



THE DEAD MEN S TALE 

Molly began casting a handful on the fire and covering 
it against the wind with her shawl, which at times she 
quickly removed. As a result the confined smoke arose 
at more or less well defined intervals, in separate puffs 
or clouds. 

"Ef ye want to know how to give the smoke signal 
right an proper, Miss Molly," said he at length, 
quietly, "I ll larn ye how." 

The girl looked up at him. 

"Well, I don t know much about it" 

"This way : Hit takes two to do hit best. You catch 
holt two corners o the shawl now. Hist it on a stick 
in the middle. Draw it down all over the fire. Let her 
simmer under some green stuff. Now! Lift her clean 
off, sideways, so s not ter break the smoke ball. See 
em go up? That s how." 

He looked at the girl keenly under his bushy gray 
brows. 

"That s the Injun signal fer Enemy in the country/ 
S pose you ever wanted to signal, say to white folks, 
Friend in the country, you might remember three 
short puffs an one long one. That might bring up a 
friend. Sech a signal can be seed a long ways." 

Molly flushed to the eyes. 

"What do you mean?" 

"Nothin* at all, any more n you do." 

Jackson rose and left her. 



CHAPTER XIII 

WILD FIRE 

THE afternoon wore on, much occupied with 
duties connected with the sad scenes of the 
tragedy. No word came of Woodhull, or of 
two others who could not be identified as among the 
victims at the death camp. No word, either, came 
from the Missourians, and so cowed or dulled were 
most of the men of the caravan that they did not 
venture far, even to undertake trailing out after the 
survivors of the massacre. In sheer indecision the great 
aggregation of wagons, piled up along the stream, lay 
apathetic, and no order came for the advance. 

Jed and his cow guards were obliged to drive tlie 
cattle back into the ridges for better grazing, for the 
valley and adjacent country, which had not been burnci 
over by the Indians the preceding fall, held a lower 
matting of heavy dry grass through which the grec- 
grass of springtime appeared only in sparser and mo e 
smothered growth. As many of the cattle and hors 3 
even now showed evil results from injudicious driving 
on the trail, it was at length decided to make a full 
day s stop so that they might feed up. 

Molly Wingate, now assured that the Pawnees no 
longer were in the vicinity, ventured out for pasturage 

90 



WILD FIRE 

with her team of mules, which she had kept tethered 
close to her own wagon. She now rapidly was becom 
ing a good f rentier swoman and thoughtful of her loco 
motive power. Taking the direction of the cattle herd, 
she drove from camp a mile or two, resolving to hobble 
and watch her mules while they grazed close to the 
cattle guards. 

She was alone. Around her, untouched by any civ 
ilization, lay a wild, free world. The ceaseless wind 
of the prairie swept old and new grass into a continuous 
undulating surface, silver crested, a wave always pass 
ing, never past. The sky was unspeakably fresh and 
blue, with its light clouds, darker edged toward the 
far horizon of the unbounded, unbroken expanse of 
alternating levels and low hills. Across the broken 
ridges passed the teeming bird life of the land. The 
Eskimo plover in vast bands circled and sought their 
nesting places. Came also the sweep of cinnamon wings 
as the giant sickle-billed curlews wheeled in vast aerial 
phalanx, with their eager cries, "Curlee! Curlee! 
Curlee!" the wildest cry of the old prairies. Again, 
from some unknown, undiscoverable place, came the 
liquid, baffling, mysterious note of the nesting upland 
plover, sweet and clean as pure white honey. 

Now and again a band of antelope swept ghostlike 
acioss a ridge. A great gray wolf stood contemptu 
ously near on a hillock, gazing speculatively at the 
strange new creature, the white woman, new come in 
his lands. It was the wilderness, rude, bold, yet sweet. 



THE COVERED WAGON 

Who shall say what thoughts the flowered wilder 
ness of spring carried to the soul of a young worn, n 
beautiful and ripe for love, her heart as sweet .nd 
melting as that of the hidden plover telling her n/ te 
of happiness? Surely a strange spell, born of y ch 
and all this free world of things beginning, fell on -ie 
soul of Molly Wingate. She sat and dreamed, K r 
hands idle, her arms empty, her beating pulses uil, 
her heart full of a maid s imaginings. 

How long she sat alone, miles apart, an unnoticed 
figure, she herself could not have said surely the sun 
was past zenith when, moved by some vague feeling 
of her own, she noticed the uneasiness of her feeding 
charges. 

The mules, hobbled and side-lined as Jed had shown 
her, turned face to the wind, down the valley, standing 
for a time studious and uncertain rather than alarmed. 
Then, their great ears pointed, they became uneasy; 
stirred, stamped, came back again to their position, 
gazing steadily in the one direction. 

The ancient desert instinct of the wild ass, brought 
down through thwarted generations, never had been 
lost to them. They had foreknowledge of danger 
long before horses or human beings could suspect it. 

Danger ? What was it ? Something, surely. Molly 
sprang to her feet. A band of antelope, running, had 
paused a hundred yards away, gazing back. Danger 
yes; but what? 

The girl ran to the crest of the nearest hillock and 

92 



WILD FIRE 

looked back. Even as she did so, it seemed that she 
caught touch of the great wave of apprehension spread 
ing swiftly over the land. 

Far off, low lying like a pale blue cloud, was a faint 
line of something that seemed to alter in look, to move, 
to rise and fall, to advance down the wind. She 
never had seen it, but knew what it must be the 
prairie fire ! The lack of fall burning had left it fuel 
even now. 

Vast numbers of prairie grouse came by, hurtling 
through the silence, alighting, strutting with high 
heads, fearlessly close. Gray creatures came hopping, 
halting or running fully extended the prairie hares, 
fleeing far ahead. Band after band of antelope came 
on, running easily, but looking back. A heavy line of 
large birds, black to the eye, beat on laboriously, 
alighted, and ran onward with incredible speed the 
wild turkeys, fleeing the terror. Came also broken 
bands of white- tailed deer, easy, elastic, bounding 
irregularly, looking back at the miles-wide cloud, which 
now and then spun up, black as ink toward the sky, 
but always flattened and came onward with the wind. 

Danger? Yes! Worse than Indians, for yonder 
were the cattle ; there lay the parked train, two hundred 
wagons, with the household goods that meant their life 
savings and their future hope in far-off Oregon. 
iWomen were there, and children women with babes 
that could not walk. True, the water lay close, but 
it was narrow and deep and offered no salvation against 

93 



THE COVERED WAGON 

the terror now coming on the wings of the wind. 

That the prairie fire would find in this strip fuel to 
carry it even at this green season of the grass the wily 
Pawnees had known. This was cheaper than assault 
by arms. They would wither and scatter the white 
nation here! Worse than plumed warriors was yon 
der broken undulating line of the prairie fire. 

Instinct told the white girl, gave her the same terror: 
as that which inspired all these fleeing creatures. But 
what could she do? This was an elemental, gigantic 
wrath, and she but a frightened girl. She guessed 
rather than reasoned what it would mean when yonder 
line came closer, when it would sweep down, roaring, 
over the wagon train. 

The mules began to bray, to plunge, too wise to 
undertake flight. She would at least save them. She 
would mount one and ride with the alarm for the camp. 

The wise animals let her come close, did not plunge, 
knew that she meant help, allowed her trembling hanr ; 
to loose one end of the hobble straps, but no more. A ..; 
soon as each mule got its feet it whirled and was away. 
No chance to hold one of them now, and if she had 
mounted a hobbled animal it had meant nothing. But 
she saw them go toward the stream, toward the camp. 
She must run that way herself. 

It was so far! There was a faint smell of smoke 
and a mysterious low humming in the air. Was it 
too late? 

A swift, absurd, wholly useless memory came to 
94 



! 



WILD FIRE 

Hr from the preceding day. Yes, it would be no more 
than a prayer, but she would send it out blindly into 
the air. , . . Some instinct yes, quite likely. 

Molly ran to her abandoned wagonette, pushed in 
under the white tilt where her pallet bed lay rolled, her 
little personal plunder stored about. Fumbling, she 
found her sulphur matches. She would build her sig 
nal fire. It was, at least, all that she could do. It 
might at least alarm the camp. 

Trembling, she looked about her, tore her hands 
breaking off little faggots of tall dry weed stems, a 
very few bits of wild thorn and fragments of a plum 
thicket in the nearest shallow coulee. She ran to her 
hillock, stooped and broke a dozen matches, knowing 
too little of fire-making in the wind. But at last she 
caught a wisp of dry grass, a few dry stems others, 
the bits of wild plum branches. She shielded her tiny 
fslaze with her frock, looking back over her shoulder, 
where the black curtain was rising taller. Now and 
then, even in the blaze of full day, a red, dull gleam rose 
and passed swiftly. The entire country was afire. 
Fuel? Yes; and a wind. 

The humming in the air grew, the scent of fire came 
plainly. The plover rose around their nests and circled, 
crying piteously. The scattered hares became a great 
body of moving gray, like camouflage blots on the still 
undulating waves of green and silver, passing but not 
yet past soon now to pass. 

The girl, her hands arrested, her arms out, in her 
95 



THE COVERED WAGON 

terror, stood trying to remember. Yes, it was three 
short puffs and a long pillar. She caught her shawl 
from her shoulder, stooped, spread it with both hands, 
drove in her stiff est bough for a partial support, cast 
in under the edge, timidly, green grass enough to make 
smoke, she hoped. 

An instant and she sprang up, drawing the shawl 
swiftly aside, the next moment jealously cutting 
through the smoke with a side sweep of the covering. 

It worked! The cut-off column rose, bent over in 
a little detached cloud. Again, with a quick flirt, eager 
eyed, and again the detached irregular ball! A third 
time Molly rose, and now cast on dry grass and green 
grass till a tall and moving pillar of cloud by day arose. 

At least she had made her prayer. She could do no 
more. With vague craving for any manner of refuge, 
she crawled to her wagon seat and covered her eyes. 
She knew that the wagon train was warned they now 
would need but little warning, for the menace was 
written all across the world. 

She sat she knew not how long, but until she became 
conscious of a roaring in the air. The line of fire had 
come astonishingly soon, she reasoned. But she forgot 
that. All the vanguard and the full army of wild 
creatures had passed by now. She alone, the white 
woman, most helpless of the great creatures, stood be 
fore the terror. 

She sprang out of the wagon and looked about her. 
The smoke crest, black, red-shot, was coming close. 

96 



WILD FIRE 

The grass here would carry it. Perhaps yonder on the 
flint ridge where the cover was short why had she 
not thought of that long ago? It was half a mile, 
and no sure haven then. 

She ran, her shawl drawn about her head ran with 
long, free stride, her limbs envigored by fear, her full- 
bosomed body heaving chokingly. The smoke was 
now in the air, and up the unshorn valley came the 
fire remorselessly, licking up the under lying layer of 
sun-cured grass which a winter s snow had matted 
down. 

She could never reach the ridge now. Her over 
burdened lungs functioned but little. The world went 
black, with many points of red. Everywhere was the 
odor and feel of smoke. She fell and gasped, and knew 
little, cared little what might come. The elemental 
terror at last had caught its prey soft, young, beau 
tiful prey, this huddled form, a bit of brown and gray, 
edged with white of wind-blown skirt. It would be a 
sweet morsel for the flames. 

Along the knife-edged flint ridge which Molly had 
tried to reach there came the pounding of hoofs, 
heavier than any of these that had passed. The cattle 
were stampeding directly down wind and before the 
fire. Dully, Molly heard the lowing, heard the far 
shouts of human voices. Then, it seemed to her, she 
heard a rush of other hoofs coming toward her. Yes, 
something was pounding down the slope toward her 

97 



THE COVERED WAGON 

wagon, toward her. Buffalo, she thought, not know 
ing the buffalo were gone from that region. 

But it was not the buffalo, nor yet the frightened 
herd, nor yet her mules. Out of the smoke curtain 
broke a rider, his horse flat ; a black horse with flying 
frontlet she knew what horse. She knew what man 
rode him, too, black with smoke as he was now. He 
swept close to the wagon and was off. Something 
flickered there, with smoke above it, beyond the wagon 
by some yards. Then he was in saddle and racing 
again, his eyes and teeth white in the black mask of 
his face. 

She heard no call and no command. But an arm 
reached down to hers, swept up and she was going 
onward, the horn of a saddle under her, her body held 
to that of the rider, swung sidewise. The horse was 
guided not down but across the wind. 

Twice and three times, silent, he flung her off and 
was down, kindling his little back fires the only de 
fense against a wildfire. He breathed thickly, makii^ 
sounds of rage. 

"Will they never start ?" he broke out at last. "The 
fools the fools!" 

But by now it was too late. A sudden accession ..: 
the force of the wind increased the speed of the fn ,. 
The little line near Molly s wagon spared it, but caug] 
strength. Could she have seen through the veils oi 
smoke she would have seen a half dozen fires this side 
the line of the great fire. But fire is fire. 



WILD FIRE 

Again he was in saddle and had her against his 
i thigh, his body, flung any way so she came with the 
i horse. And now the horse swerved, till he drove in 
I the steel again and again, heading him not away from 
(the fire but straight into it! 

Molly felt a rush of hot air; surging, actual flame 
singed the ends of her hair. She felt his hand again 
and again sweep over her skirts, wiping out the fire as 
it caught. It was blackly hot, stifling and then it 
was past! 

Before her lay a wide black world. Her wagon 
stood, even its white top spared by miracle of the back 
fire. But beyond came one more line of smoke and 
flame. The black horse neighed now in the agony of 
his hot hoofs. His rider swung him to a lower level, 
v here under the tough cover had lain moist ground, 
on which uncovered water now glistened. He flung 
her into the mire of it, pulled up his horse there and 
himself lay down, full length, his blackened face in the 
moist mud above which still smoked stubbles of the 
flame-shorn grass. He had not spoken to her, nor she 
to him. His eyes rested on the singed ends of her 
blown hair, her charred garments, in a frowning sym 
pathy which found no speech. At length he brought 
the reins of his horse to her, flirting up the singed 
ends of the long mane, further proof of their narrow 
escape. 

"I must try once more," he said. "The main fire 
might catch the wagon." 

99 



THE COVERED WAGON 

He made off afoot. She saw him start a dozen 
nucleuses of fires; saw them advance till they halted 
at the edge of the burned ground, beyond the wagon, 
so that it stood safe in a vast black island. He came 
to her, drove his scorched boots deep as he could into 
the mud and sat looking up the valley toward the emi 
grant train. An additional curtain of smoke showed 
that the men there now were setting out back fires of 
their own. He heard her voice at last: 

"It is the second time you have saved me saved 
my life, I think. Why did you come?" 

He turned to her as she sat in the edge of the 
wallow, her face streaked with smoke, her garments 
half burned off her limbs. She now saw his hands, 
which he was thrusting out on the mud to cool them, 
and sympathy was in her gaze also. 

"I don t know why I came," said he. "Didn t you 
signal for me? Jackson told me you could." 

"No, I had no hope. I meant no one. It was only 
a prayer." 

"It carried ten miles. We were all back-firing. It 
caught in the sloughs all the strips of old grass. I 
thought of your camp, of you. At least your signal 
told me where to ride." 

At length he waved his hand. 

"They re safe over there," said he, "Think of the 
children!" 

"Yes, and you gave me my one chance. Why?" 

"I don t know. I suppose it was because I am a 
100 



WILD FIRE 

brute!" The bitterness of his voice was plain. 

"Come, we must go to the wagons," said Molly at 
length, and would have risen. 

"No, not yet. The burned ground must cool before 
we can walk on it. I would not even take my horse 
out on it again." He lifted a foot of the black Span 
iard, whose muzzle quivered whimperingly. "All right, 
old boy!" he said, and stroked the head thrust down 
to him. "It might have been worse." 

His voice was so gentle that Molly Wingate felt a 
vague sort of jealousy. He might have taken her 
scorched hand in his, might at least have had some 
thought for her welfare. He did speak at last as to 
that. 

"What s in your wagon?" he asked. "We had better 
go there to wait. Have you anything along oil, flour, 
anything to use on burns? You re burned. It hurts 
me to see a woman suffer." 

"Are not you burned too?" 

"Yes." 

"It pains you?" 

"Oh, yes, of course." 

He rose and led the way over the damper ground to 
the wagon, which stood smoke-stained but not charred, 
thanks to his own resourcefulness. 

Molly climbed up to the seat, and rummaging about 
found a jar of butter, a handful of flour. 

"Come up on the seat," said she. "This is better 
medicine than nothing." 

101 



THE COVERED WAGON 

He climbed up and sat beside her. She frowned 
again as she now saw how badly scorched his hands 
were, his neck, his face. His eyebrows, caught by one 
wisp of flame, were rolled up at the ends, whitened. 
One cheek was a dull red. 

Gently, without asking his consent, she began to coat 
his burned skin as best she might with her makeshift 
of alleviation. His hand trembled under hers. 

"Now," she said, "hold still. I must fix your hand 



some more." 



She still bent over, gently, delicately touching his 
flesh with hers. And then all in one mad, unpremedi 
tated instant it was done! 

His hand caught hers, regardless of the pain to 
either. His arm went about her, his lips would have 
sought hers. 

It was done! Now he might repent. 

A mad way of wooing, inopportune, fatal as any 
method he possibly could have found, moreover a cruel, 
unseemly thing to do, here and with her situated thus. 
But it was done. 

Till now he had never given her grounds for more 
than guessing. Yet now here was this! 

He came to his senses as she thrust him away; saw 
her cheeks whiten, her eyes grow wide. 

"Oh!" she said. "Oh! Oh! Oh!" 

"Oh!" whispered Will Banion to himself, hoarsely. 

He held his two scorched hands each side her face 

102 



WILD FIRE 

as she drew back, sought to look into her eyes, so that 
she might believe either his hope, his despair or his con 
trition. 

But she turned her eyes away. Only he could hear 
her outraged protest "Oh! Oh! Oh!" 



CHAPTER XIV 

THE KISS 

"TTT WAS the wind!" Will Banion exclaimed. "It 

i was the sky, the earth ! It was the fire ! I don t 

-*- know what it was ! I swear it was not I who did 
it! Don t forgive me, but don t blame me. Molly! 
Molly! 

"It had to be sometime," he went on, since she still 
drew away from him. "What chance have I had to 
ask you before now ? It s little I have to offer but my 
love." 

"What do you mean? It will never be at any time !" 
said Molly Wingate slowly, her hand touching his 
no more. 

"What do you yourself mean?" He turned to her 
in agony of soul. "You will not let me repent? You 
will not give me some sort of chance?" 

"No," she said coldly. "You have had chance enough 
to be a gentleman as much as you had when you 
were in Mexico with other women. But Major Wil 
liam Banion falsified the regimental accounts. I know 
that too. I didn t I couldn t believe it till now." 

He remained dumb under this. She went on mer 
cilessly. 

"Oh, yes, Captain Woodhull told us. Yes, he showed 
104 



THE KISS 

us the very vouchers. My father believed it of you, 
but I didn t. Now I do. Oh, fine! And you an 
officer of our Army! * 

She blazed out at him now, her temper rising. 

"Chance? What more chance did you need? No 
wonder you couldn t love a girl any other way than 
this. It would have to be sometime, you say. What 
>do you mean? That I d ever marry a thief?" 

Still he could not speak. The fire marks showed 
i livid against a paling cheek. 

"Yes, I know you saved me twice, this time at 
imuch risk," resumed the girl. "Did you want pay so 
soon? You d you d " 

"Oh! Oh! Oh!" 

It was his voice that now broke in. He could not 
speak at all beyond the exclamation under torture. 

"I didn t believe that story about you," she added 
after a long time. "But you are not what you looked, 
not what I thought you were. So what you say must 
>e sometime is never going to be at all." 

"Did he tell you that about me?" demanded Will 
Banion savagely. "Woodhull did he say that?" 

"I have told you, yes. My father knew. No won 
der he didn t trust you. How could he?" 

She moved now as though to leave the wagon, but 
he raised a hand. 

"Wait !" said he. Took yonder ! You d not have 
time now to reach camp." 

In the high country a great prairie fire usually or 

105 



THE COVERED WAGON 

quite often was followed by a heavy rainstorm. What 
Banion now indicated was the approach of yet another 
of the epic phenomena of the prairies, as rapid, as 
colossal and as merciless as the fire itself. 

On the western horizon a low dark bank of clouds 
lay for miles, piled, serrated, steadily rising opposite to 
the course of the wind that had driven the fire. Along 
it more and more visibly played almost incessant sheet 
lightning, broken with ripping zigzag flames. A hush 
had fallen close at hand, for now even the frightened 
breeze of evening had fled. Now and then, at first 
doubtful, then unmistakable and continuous, came the 
mutter and rumble and at length the steady roll of 
thunder. 

They lay full in the course of one of the tremendous 
storms of the high country, and as the cloud bank rose 
and came on swiftly, spreading its flanking wings so 
that nothing might escape, the spectacle was terrifying 
almost as much as that of the fire, for, unprotected, 
as they were, they could make no counter battle against 
the storm. 

The air grew supercharged with electricity. Itj 
dripped, literally, from the barrel of Banion s pistol 
when he took it from its holster to carry it to the) 
wagon. He fastened the reins of his horse to a wheel! 
and hastened with other work. A pair of trail ropes 
lay in the wagon. He netted them over the wagon top 
and lashed the ends to the wheels to make the top 
securer, working rapidly, eyes on the advancing storm. 

1 06 



THE KISS 

There came a puff, then a gust of wind. The sky 
blackened. The storm caught the wagon train first. 
There was no interval at all between the rip of the 
lightning and the crash of thunder as it rolled down on 
the clustered wagons. The electricity at times came 
not in a sheet or a ragged bolt, but in a ball of fire, 
low down, close to the ground, exploding with giant 
detonations. 

Then came the rain, with a blanketing rush of level 
wind, sweeping away the last vestige of the wastrel 
i fires of the emigrant encampment. An instant and 
< every human being in the train, most of them ill de 
fended by their clothing, was drenched by the icy 
food. One moment and the battering of hail made 
climax of it all. The groaning animals plunged and 
fell at their picket ropes, or broke and fled into the 
open. The remaining cattle caught terror, and since 
there was no corral, most of the cows and oxen stam 
peded down the wind. 

The canvas of the covered wagons made ill defense. 
Many of them were stripped off, others leaked like 
sieves. Mothers sat huddled in their calicoes, bending 
over their tow-shirted young, some of them babes in 
arms. The single jeans garments of the boys gave 
them no comfort. Under the wagons and carts, 
wrapped in blankets or patched quilts whose colors 
dripped, they crawled and sat as the air grew strangely 
chill. Only wreckage remained when they saw the 
storm muttering its way across the prairies, having 

107 



THE COVERED WAGON 

done what it could in its elemental wrath to bar the 
road to the white man. 

As for Banion and Molly, they sat it out in the 
light wagon, the girl wrapped in blankets, Banion much 
of the time out in the storm, swinging on the ropes to 
keep the wagon from overturning. He had no appar 
ent fear. His calm assuaged her own new terrors. In 
spite of her bitter arraignment, she was glad that he 
was here, though he hardly spoke to her at all. 

"Look !" he exclaimed at last, drawing back the flap 
of the wagon cover. "Look at the rainbow !" 

Over the cloud banks of the rain-wet sky there indeed 
now was flung the bow of promise. But this titanic 
land did all things gigantically. This was no mere pris 
matic arch bridging the clouds. The colors all were 
there, yes, and of an unspeakable brilliance and indi 
vidual distinctness in the scale ; but they lay like a vast 
painted mist, a mural of some celestial artist flung en 
masse against the curtain of the night. The entire 
clouded sky, miles on untold miles, was afire. All the 
opals of the universe were melted and cast into a tre 
mendous picture painted by the Great Spirit of the 
Plains. 

"Oh, wonderful !" exclaimed the girl. "It might 
be the celestial city in the desert, promised by the Mor 
mon prophet !" 

"It may be so to them. May it be so to us. Blessed 
be the name of the Lord God of Hosts!" said Will 
Banion. 

108 



THE KISS 

She looked at him suddenly, strangely. What sort 
of man was he, after all, so full of strange contradic 
tions a savage, a criminal, yet reverent and devout? 

"Come," he said, "we can get back now, and you 
must go. They will think you are lost." 

He stepped to the saddle of his shivering horse and 
drew off the poncho, which he had spread above the 
animal instead of using it himself. He was wet to 
the bone. With apology he cast the waterproof over 
Molly s shoulders, since she now had discarded her 
blankets. He led the way, his horse following them. 

They walked in silence in the deep twilight which 
began to creep across the blackened land. All through 
the storm he had scarcely spoken to her, and he spoke 
but rarely now. He was no more than guide. But as 
she approached safety Molly Wingate began to reflect 
how much she really owed this man. He had been -a 
pillar of strength, elementally fit to combat all the ele 
ments, else she had perished. 

"Wait!" 

She had halted at the point of the last hill which 
lay between them and the wagons. They could hear 
the wailing of the children close at hand. He turned 
inquiringly. She handed back the poncho. 

"I am all right now. You re wet, you re tired, you re 
burned to pieces. Won t you come on in ?" 

"Not to-night!" 

But still she hesitated. In her mind there were going 
109 



THE COVERED WAGON 

on certain processes she could not have predicted an 
hour earlier. 

"I ought to thank you/* she said. "I do thank you." 

His utter silence made it hard for her. He could 
see her hesitation, which made it hard for him, covet 
ing sight of her always, loath to leave her. 

Now a sudden wave of something, a directness and 
frankness born in some way in this new world apart 
from civilization, like a wind-blown flame, irrespon 
sible and irresistible, swept over Molly Wingate s soul 
as swiftly, as unpremeditatedly as it had over his. She 
was a young woman fit for love, disposed for love, at 
the age for love. Now, to her horror, the clasp of this 
man s arm, even when repelled in memory, returned, 
remained in memory! She was frightened that it still 
remained frightened at her own great curiousness. 

" About that" he knew what she meant "I don t 
want you to think anything but the truth of me. If 
you have deceived people, I don t want to deceive you." 

"What do you mean?" He was a man of not very 
many words. 

"About that!" 

"You said it could never be." 

"No. If it could, I would not be stopping here now 
to say so much." 

He stepped closer, frowning. 

"What is it you are saying then that a man s a 
worse brute when he goes mad, as I did?" 

no 



THE KISS 

"I expect not," said Molly Wingate queerly. "It is 
very far, out here. It s some other world, I believe. 
And I suppose men have kissed girls. I suppose no 
girl ever was married who was not ever kissed." 

"What are you saying?" 

"I said I wanted you to know the truth about a 
woman about me. That s just because it s not ever 
going to be between us. It can t be, because of that 
other matter in Mexico. If it had not been for that, 
I suppose after a time I wouldn t have minded what 
you did back there. I might have kissed you. It must 
be terrible to feel as you feel now, so ashamed. But 
after all " 

"It was criminal!" he broke out. "But even crim-* 
inals are loved by women. They follow them to jail, 
to the gallows. They don t mind what the man is 
they love him, they forgive him. They stand by him 
to the very end!" 

"Yes, I suppose many a girl loves a man she knows 
she never can marry. Usually she marries someone 
else. But kissing! That s terrible!" 

"Yes. But you will not let me make it splendid 
and not terrible. You say it never can be that means 
we ve got to part. Well, how can I forget?" 

"I don t suppose you can. I don t suppose that 
that I can!" 

"What are you going to say? Don t! Oh, please 
don t!" 

in 



THE COVERED WAGON 

But she still went on, strangely, not in the least 
understanding her own swift change of mood, her own 
intent with him, vis-a-vis, here in the wilderness. 

"While we were walking down here just now," said 
she, "somehow it all began to seem not so wrong. It 
only seemed to stay wrong for you to have deceived 
me about yourself what you really were when you 
were in the Army. I could maybe forgive you up to 
that far, for you did for men are well, men. But 
about that other you knew all the time we couldn t 
couldn t ever I d never marry a thief." 

The great and wistful regret of her voice was a 
thing not to be escaped. She stood, a very splendid 
figure, clean and marvelous of heart as she was be 
grimed and bedraggled of body now, her great vital 
force not abated by what she had gone through. She 
spread her hands just apart and looked at him in what 
she herself felt was to be the last meeting of their 
lives; in which she could afford to reveal all her soul 
for once to a man, and then go about a woman s busi 
ness of living a life fed on the husks of love given her 
by some other man. 

He knew that he had seen one more miracle. But, 
chastened now, he could, he must, keep down his own 
eager arms. He heard her speak once more, her voice 
like some melancholy bell of vespers of a golden 
evening. 

"Oh, Will Banion, how could you take away a girfs 
heart and leave her miserable all her life?" 

112 



THE KISS 

The cry literally broke from her. It seemed in her 
own ears the sudden voice of some other woman speak 
ing some unaccountable, strange woman whom she 
never had seen or known in all her life. 

"Your heart?" he whispered, now close to her in 
the dusk. "You were not you did not you " 

But he choked. She nodded, not brazenly or crudely 
or coarsely, not even bravely, but in utter simplicity. 
For the time she was wholly free of woman coquetry. 
It was as though the elements had left her also ele 
mental. Her words now were of the earth, the air, 
the fire, the floods of life. 

"Yes," she said, "I will tell you now, because of 
what you have done for me. If you gave me life, 
why shouldn t I give you love if so I could?" 

"Love? Give me love?" 

"Yes ! I believe I was going to love you, until now, 
although I had promised him you know Captain 
Woodhull. Oh, you see, I understand a little of what it 
was to you what made you " She spoke discon 
nectedly. "I believe I believe I d not have cared. I 
believe I could follow a man to the gallows. Now I 
will not, because you didn t tell me you were a thief. 
I can t trust you. But I ll kiss you once for good-by. 
I m sorry. I m so sorry." 

Being a man, he never fathomed her mind at all. 
But being a man, slowly, gently, he took her in his arms, 
drew her tight. Long, long it was till their lips met 
and long then. But he heard her whisper "Good-by," 



THE COVERED WAGON 

saw her frank tears, felt her slowly, a little by a little, 
draw away from him. 

"Good-by," she said. "Good-by. I would not dare, 
any more, ever again. Oh, Will Banion, why did you 
take away my heart? I had but one!" 

"It is mine !" he cried savagely. "No other man in 
all the world shall ever have it! Molly!" 

But she now was gone. 

He did not know how long he stood alone, his head 
bowed on his saddle. The raucous howl of a great 
gray wolf near by spelled out the lonesome tragedy of 
his future life for him. 

Quaint and sweet philosopher, and bold as she but 
now had been in one great and final imparting of her 
real self, Molly Wingate was only a wet, weary and 
bedraggled maid when at length she entered the deso 
late encampment which stood for home. She found 
her mother sitting on a box under a crude awning, and 
cast herself on her knees, her head on that ample bosom 
that she had known as haven in her childhood. She 
wept now like a little child. 

"It s bad!" said stout Mrs. Wingate, not knowing. 
"But you re back and alive. It looks like we re wrecked 
and everything lost, and we come nigh about getting 
all burned up, but you re back alive to your ma ! Now, 
now!" 

That night Molly turned on a sodden pallet which 
she had made down beside her mother in the great 



114 



THE KISS 

wagon. But she slept ill. Over and over to her lips 
rose the same question : 

"Oh, Will Banion, Will Banion, why did you take 
away my heart? * 



CHAPTER XV 

THE DIVISION 

THE great wagon train of 1848 lay banked 
along the Vermilion in utter and abject con 
fusion. Organization there now was none. 
But for Banion s work with the back fires the entire 
train would have been wiped out. The effects of the 
storm were not so capable of evasion. Sodden, 
wretched, miserable, chilled, their goods impaired, their 
cattle stampeded, all sense of gregarious self-reliance 
gone, two hundred wagons were no more than two 
hundred individual units of discontent and despair. 
So far as could be prophesied on facts apparent, the 
journey out to Oregon had ended in disaster almost 
before it was well begun. 

Bearded men at smoking fires looked at one another 
in silence, or would not look at all. Elan, morale, 
esprit de corps were gone utterly. 

Stout Caleb Price walked down the wagon lines, 
passing fourscore men shaking in their native agues, 
not yet conquered. Women, pale, gaunt, grim, looked 
at him from limp sunbonnets whose stays had been 
half dissolved. Children whimpered. Even the dogs, 
curled nose to tail under the wagons, growled surlily. 

116 



THE DIVISION 

But Caleb Price found at last the wagon of the bugler 
who had been at the wars and shook him out. 

"Sound, man!" said Caleb Price. "Play up Oh, 
Susannah ! Then sound the Assembly. We ve got to 
have a meeting." 

They did have a meeting. Jesse Wingate scented 
mutiny and remained away. 

"There s no use talking, men," said Caleb Price, 
"no use trying to fool ourselves. We re almost done, 
the way things are. I like Jess Wingate as well as 
any man I ever knew, but Jess Wingate s not the man. 
What shall we do?" 

He turned to Hall, but Hall shook his head; to 
Kelsey, but Kelsey only laughed. 

"I could get a dozen wagons through, maybe," said 
he. "Here s two hundred. Woodhull s the man, but 
Woodhull s gone lost, I reckon, or maybe killed and 
lying out somewhere on these prairies. You take it, 
Gale." 

Price considered for a time. 

"No," said he at length. "It s no time for one of 
us to take on what may be done better by someone 
else, because our women and children are at stake. The 
very best man s none too good for this job, and the 
more experience he has the better. The man who 
thinks fastest and clearest at the right time is the man 
we want, and the man we d follow the only man. 
Who ll he be?" 

"Oh, I ll admit Banion had the best idea of crossing 
117 



THE COVERED WAGON 

the Kaw," said Kelsey. "He got his own people over, 
too, somehow." 

"Yes, and they re together now ten miles below us. 
And Molly Wingate she was caught out with her 
team by the fire says it was Banion who started the 
back-fire. That saved his train and ours. Ideas that 
come too late are no good. We need some man with 
the right ideas at the right time." 

"You think it s Banion?" Hall spoke. 

"I do think it s Banion. I don t, see how it can be 
anyone else." 

"Woodhull d never stand for it." - 

"He isn t here." 

"Wingate won t." 

"He ll have to." 

The chief of mutineers, a grave and bearded man, 
waited for a time. 

"This is a meeting of the train," said he. "In our 
government the majority rules. Is there any motion 
on this?" 

Silence. Then rose Hall of Ohio, slowly, a solid 
man, with three wagons of his own. 

"I ve been against the Missouri outfit," said he. \ 
"They re a wild bunch, with no order or discipline to I 
them. They re not all free-soilers, even if they re go- j 
ing out to Oregon. But if one man can handle them, 
he can handle us. An Army man with a Western ex- I 
perience who ll it be unless it is their man? So. 
Mister Chairman, I move for a committee of three, 

118 



THE DIVISION 

yourself to be one, to ride down and ask the Mis- 
sour ians to join on again, all under Major Banion." 

"I ll have to second that," said a voice. Price saw 
a dozen nods. "You ve heard it, men," said he. "All 
in favor rise up." 

They stood, witH not many exceptions rough-clad, 
hard-headed, hard-handed men of the nation s van 
guard. Price looked them over soberly. 

"You see the vote, men," said he. "I wish Jess had 
come, but he didn t. Who ll be the man to ride down? 
Wingate?" 

"He wouldn t go," said Kelsey. "He s got some 
thing against Banion; says he s not right on his war 
record something " 

"He s right on his train record this far," commented 
Price. "We re not electing a Sabbath-school superin 
tendent now, but a train captain who ll make these 
wagons cover twelve miles a day, average. 

"Hall, you and Kelsey saddle up and ride down with 
me. We ll see what we can do. One thing sure, 
something has got to be done, or we might as well turn 
back. For one, I m not used to that." 

They did saddle and ride to find the Missouri 
column coming up with intention of pitching below, 
at the very scene of the massacre, which was on the 
usual Big Vermilion ford, steep-banked on either side, 
but with hard bottom. 

Ahead of the train rode two men at a walk, the 
scout Jackson, and the man they sought. They spied 

,119 



THE COVERED WAGON 

him as the man on the black Spanish horse, found 
him a pale and tired young man, who apparently had 
slept as ill as they themselves. But in straight and 
manful fashion they told him their errand. 

The pale face of Will Banion flushed, even with 
the livid scorch marks got in the prairie fire the day 
before. He considered. 

"Gentlemen," he said after a time, "you don t know 
what you are asking of me. It would be painful for 
me to take that work on now." 

"It s painful for us to see our property lost and our 
families set afoot," rejoined Caleb Price. "It s not 
pleasant for me to do this. But it s no question, Major 
Banion, what you or I find painful or pleasant. The 
question is on the women and children. You know 
that very well." 

"I do know it yes. But you have other men. 
Where s Woodhull?" 

"We don t know. We think the Pawnees got him 
among the others." 

"Jackson" Banion turned to his companion ! 
"we ve got to make a look-around for him. He s 
probably across the river somewhere." 

"Like enough," rejoined the scout. "But the first| 
thing is for all us folks to git acrost the river too. Let 
him go to hell." 

"We want you, Major," said Hall quietly, and evei 
Kelsey nodded. 

"What shall I do, Jackson?" demanded Banion. 
1 20 



THE DIVISION 

"Fly inter hit, Will," replied that worthy. "Least 
ways, take hit on long enough so s to git them acrost 
an help git their cattle together. Ye couldn t git Win- 
gate to work under ye no ways. But mebbe-so we can 
show em fer a day er so how Old Missoury gits acrost 
a country. Uh-huh?" 

Again Banion considered, pondering many things 
of which none of these knew anything at all. At 
length he drew aside with the men of the main train. 

"Park our wagons here, Bil/," he said. "See that 
they are well parked, too. Get out your guards. I ll 
go up and see what we can do. We ll all cross here. 
Have your men get all the trail ropes out and lay in a 
lot of dry cottonwood logs. We ll have to raft some 
of the stuff over. See if there s any wild grapevines 
along the bottoms. They ll help hold the logs. So 
long." 

He turned, and with the instinct of authority rode 
just a half length ahead of the others on the return. 

Jesse Wingate, a sullen and discredited Achilles, 
held to his tent, and Molly did as much, her stout 
hearted and just-minded mother being the main source 
of Wingate news. Banion kept as far away from 
them as possible, but had Jed sent for. 

"Jed," said he, "first thing, you get your boys to 
gether and go after the cattle. Most of them went 
downstream with the wind. The hobbled stuff didn t 
come back down the trail and must be below there too. 
The cows wouldn t swim the big river on a run. If 

121 



THE COVERED WAGON 

there s rough country, with any shelter, they d like 
enough begin to mill it might be five miles, ten I 
can t guess. You go find out. 

"Now, you others, first thing, get your families all 
out in the sun. Spread out the bedclothes and get them 
dried. Build fires and cook your best right away 
have the people eat. Get that bugle going and play 
something fast Sweet Hour of Prayer is for evening, 
not now. Give em Reveille, and then the cavalry 
charge. Play Susannah. 

"I m going to ride the edge of the burning to look 
for loose stock. You others get a meal into these 
people coffee, quinine, more coffee. Then hook up 
all the teams you can and move down to the ford. We ll 
be on the Platte and among the buffalo in a week or 
ten days. Nothing can stop us. All you need is just 
a little more coffee and a little more system, and then 
a good deal more of both. 

"Now s a fine time for this train to shake into place," 
he added. "You, Price, take your men and go down 
the lines. Tell your kin folk and families and friends 
and neighbors to make bands and hang together. Let 
em draw cuts for place if they like, but stick where 
they go. We can t tell how the grass will be on ahead, 
and we may have to break the train into sections on 
the Platte; but we ll break it ourselves, and not see it 
fall apart or fight apart. So ?" 

He wheeled and went away at a trot. All he had 
given them was the one thing they lacked. 

122 



THE DIVISION 

The Wingate wagons came in groups and halted at 
the river bank, where the work of rafting and wagon 
boating went methodically forward. Scores of in 
dividual craft, tipsy and risky, two or three logs lashed 
together, angled across and landed far below. Horse 
men swam across with lines and larger rafts were 
steadied fore and aft with ropes snubbed around tree 
trunks on either bank. Once started, the resourceful 
pioneer found a dozen ways to skin his cat, as one 
man phrased it, and presently the falling waters per 
mitted swimming and fording the stock. It all seemed 
ridiculously simple and ridiculously cheerful. 

Toward evening a great jangling of bells and shout 
ing of young captains announced the coming of a great 
band of the stampeded livestock cattle, mules and 
horses mixed. Afar came the voice of Jed Wingate 
singing, "Oh, then Susannah," and urging Susannah 
to have no concern. 

But Banion, aloof and morose, made his bed that 
night apart even from his own train. He had not seen 
Wingate did not see him till the next day, noon, 
when he rode up and saluted the former leader, who sat 
on his own wagon seat and not in saddle. 

"My people are all across, Mr. Wingate," he said, 
"and the last of your wagons will be over by dark and 
straightened out. I m parked a mile ahead." 

"You are parked? I thought you were elected by 
my late friends to lead this whole train." 

123 



THE COVERED WAGON 

He spoke bitterly and with a certain contempt that 
made Banion color. 

"No. We can travel apart, though close. Do you 
want to go ahead, or shall I?" 

"As you like. The country s free." 

"It s not free for some things, Mr. Wingate," re 
joined the younger man hotly. "You can lead or not, 
as you like; but I ll not train up with a man who thinks 
of me as you do. After this think what you like, but 
don t speak any more." 

"What do you mean by that?" 

"You know very well. You ve believed another 
man s word about my personal character. It s gone 
far enough and too far." 

"The other man is not here. He can t face you." 

"No, not now. But if he s on earth he ll face me 
sometime." 

Unable to control himself further, Banion wheeled 
and galloped away to his own train. 

"You ask if we re to join in with the Yankees," he 
flared out to Jackson. "No! We ll camp apart and 
train apart. I won t go on with them." 

"Well," said the scout, "I didn t never think we 
would, er believe ye could; not till they git in trouble 
agin er till a certain light wagon an mules throws in 
with us, huh?" 

"You ll say no more of that, Jackson! But one 
124 






THE DIVISION 

thing : you and I have got to ride and see if we can get 
any trace of Woodhull." 

"Like looking for a needle in a haystack, an a damn 
bad needle at that," was the old man s comment. 



CHAPTER XVI 

THE PLAINS 

" f\ N to the Platte! The buffalo!" New cheer 
1 seemed to come to the hearts of the emi- 
^-^ grants now, and they forgot bickering. The 
main train ground grimly ahead, getting back, if not 
all its egotism, at least more and more of its self- 
reliance. By courtesy, Wingate still rode ahead, though 
orders came now from a joint council of his leaders, 
since Banion would not take charge. 

The great road to Oregon was even now not a trail 
but a road, deep cut into the soil, though no wheeled 
traffic had marked it until within the past five years. A 
score of paralled paths it might be at times, of tentative 
location along a hillside or a marshy level; but it was 
for the most part a deep-cut, unmistakable road from 
which it had been impossible to wander. At times it lay 
worn into the sod a half foot, a foot in depth. Some 
times it followed the ancient buffalo trails to water 
the first roads of the Far West, quickly seized on by 
hunters and engineers or again it transected these, 
hanging to the ridges after frontier road fashion, 
heading out for the proved fords of the greater streams. 
Always the wheel marks of those who had gone ahead 
in previous years, the continuing thread of the trail 

126 



THE PLAINS 

itself, worn in by trader and trapper and Mormon and 
Oregon or California man, gave hope and cheer to 
these who followed with the plow. 

Stretching out, closing up, almost inch by inch, like 
some giant measuring worm in its slow progress, the 
train held on through a vast and stately landscape, 
which some travelers had called the Eden of America, 
such effect was given by the series of altering scenes. 
Small imagination, indeed, was needed to picture here 
a long-established civilization, although there was not 
? habitation. They were beyond organized society and 
beyond the law. 

Game became more abundant, wild turkeys still ap 
peared in the timbered creek bottoms. Many elk were 
seen, more deer and very many antelope, packed in 
northward by the fires. A number of panthers and 
giant gray wolves beyond counting kept the hunters 
always excited. The wild abundance of an unexhausted 
Nature offered at every hand. The sufficiency of life 
brought daily growth in the self-reliance which had 
left them for a time. 

The w r ide timberlands, the broken low hills of the 
green prairie at length began to give place to a steadily 
rising inclined plane. The soil became less black and 
heavy, with more sandy ridges. The oak and hickory, 
stout trees of their forefathers, passed, and the cot- 
tonwoods appeared. After they had crossed the ford 
of the Big Blue a hundred yards of racing water 
they passed what is now the line between Kansas and 

127 



THE COVERED WAGON 

Nebraska, and followed up the Little Blue, beyond 
whose ford the trail left these quieter river valleys and 
headed out over a high table-land in a keen straight 
flight over the great valley of the Platte, the highway to 
the Rockies. 

Now the soil was sandier; the grass changed yet 
again. They had rolled under wheel by now more than 
one hundred different varieties of wild grasses. The 
vegetation began to show the growing altitude. The 
cactus was sen now and then. On the far horizon 
the wavering mysteries of the mirage appeared, mar 
velous in deceptiveness, mystical, alluring, the very 
spirits of the Far West, appearing to move before 
their eyes in giant pantomime. They were passing 
from the Prairies to the Plains. 

Shouts and cheers arose as the word passed back 
that the sand hills known as the Coasts of the Platte 
were in sight. Some mothers told their children they 
were now almost to Oregon. The whips cracked more 
loudly, the tired teams, tongues lolling, quickened their 
pace as they struck the down-grade gap leading through 
the sand ridges. 

Two thouand Americans, some of them illiterate and 
ignorant, all of them strong, taking with them law, 
order, society, the church, the school, anew were stag 
ing the great drama of human life, act and scene and 
episode, as though upon some great moving platform 
drawn by invisible cables beyond the vast proscenium 
of the hills. 




CHAPTER XVII 



THE GREAT ENCAMPMENT 



%_ < " : "- -.>ct^ i . ^^ 

long columns of the great wagon train 
pugh the screening sa%d hills there 
was clisMgsed a vast and splendid panorama. 
The valley of the !%tte, lay miles wide, green in the -full 
covering of spring. "^Sfa. crooked and broken thread of 
timber growth appeareol^a^king the moister soil and 
outlining the general course of the shallow stream, 
whose giant cotton woods Were dwarfed now by the 
distances. In between, and for, miles tip and down the 
flat expanse, there rose the blue smokes of countless 
camp fires,, each showing the, location pf some white- 
topped ship of the Plains| Black specks, grouped here 
and there, proved the presence of t|ie livestock under 
herd. 

Over all shone a pleasant sun^. INow and again 
the dark shadow of a moVing cloudy passed over the 
flat valley, softening its hig|i lights ffe the time. At 
times, as the sun shone full arid strong, the faint loom, 
of the mirage added the last \touch of mysticism, the 
figures of the wagons rising high, multiplied many- 
fold, with giant creatures passing between, so that the 
whole seemed, indeed, some wild phantasmagoria of 
the desert. 

129 



THE COVERED WAGON 

"Look!" exclaimed Wingate, pulling up his horse. 
"Look, Caleb, the Northern train is in and waiting 
for us! A hundred wagons! They re camped oved 
the whole bend." 

The sight of this vast re-enforcement brought heari 
to every man, woman and child in all the advancing 
train. Now, indeed, Oregon was sure. There would 
be, all told, four hundred five hundred above shi 
hundred wagons. Nothing could withstand them 
They were the same as arrived ! 

As the great trains blended before the final emparkj 
ment men and women who had never met before shoolj 
hands, talked excitedly, embraced, even wept, such was 
their joy in meeting their own kind. Soon the vasj 
valley at the foot of the Grand Island of the Platte 
ninety miles in length it then was became one vasj 
bivouac whose parallel had not been seen in all thd 
world. 

Even so, the Missouri column held back, an hou| 
or two later on the trail. Banion, silent and morosej 
still rode ahead, but all the flavor of his adventure ouj 
to Oregon had left him indeed, the very savor of lif j 
itself. He looked at his arms, empty; touched his lipa 
where once her kiss had been, so infinitely and iiJ 
eradicably sweet. Why should he go on to Oregoij 
now? 

As they came down through the gap in the Coasts! 
looking out over the Grand Island and the great enj 
campment, Jackson pulled up his horse. 

130 



THE GREAT ENCAMPMENT 

"Look ! Someone comin out !" 

Banion sat his horse awaiting the arrival of the rider, 
vho soon cut down the intervening distance until he 
ould well be noted. A tall, spare man he was, middle- 
,ged, of long lank hair and gray stubbled beard, and 
*yes overhung by bushy brows. He rode an Indian 
*ad saddle, without stirrups, and was clad in the old 
lostume of the hunter of the Far West fringed shirt 
ind leggings of buckskin. Moccasins made his foot- 
covering, though he wore a low, wide hat. As he came 
>n at speed, guiding his wiry mount with a braided 
looped around the lower jaw, he easily might 
lave been mistaken for a savage himself had he not 
.ome alone and from such company as that ahead. He 
erked up his horse close at hand and sat looking at 
the newcomers, with no salutation beyond a short 
ji How!" 

Banion met him. 

"We re the Westport train. Do you come from 
he Bluffs? Are you for Oregon?" 

"Yes. I seen ye comin . Thought I d projeck some. 
jvVTio s that back of ye?" He extended an imperative 
i skinny finger toward Jackson. "If it hain t Bill Jack- 
>on hit s his ghost!" 

"The same to you, Jim. How !" 

The two shook hands without dismounting. Jack- 
5on turned grinning to Banion. 

"Major," said he, "this is Jim Bridger, the oldest 
scout in the Rockies, an that knows more West than 



THE COVERED WAGON 

ary man this side the Missoury. I never thought toj 
see him agin, sartain not this far east." 

"Ner me," retorted the other, shaking hands with 
one man after another. 

"Jim Bridger ? That s a name we know," said Ban-i; 
ion. "I ve heard of you back in Kentucky." 

"Whar I come from, gentlemen whar I come froml 
more n forty year ago, near s I can figger. Leastways!: 
I was horned in Virginny an must of crossed 
Kentucky sometime. I kain t tell right how old I am,I 
but I rek lect perfect when they turned the water inter! 
the Missoury River." He looked at them solemnly. 

"I come back East to the new place, Kansas City.i 
It didn t cut no mustard, an* I drifted to the Bluffs.! 
This train was pullin west, an* I hired on for guide.I 
I ve got a few wagons o my own iron, flour an ] 
bacon for my post beyant the Rockies ef we don t all! 
git our ha r lifted afore then ! 

"We re in between the Sioux and the Pawnees now, "I 
he went on. "They re huntin the bufflers not ten mile] 
ahead. But when I tell these pilgrims, they laugh atj 
me. The hull Sioux nation is on the spring hunt right] 
now. I ll not have it said Jim Bridger led a wagon] 
train into a massacree. If ye ll let me, I m for leavin* 
em an* trainin with you-all, especial since you got any-] 
how one good man along. I ve knowed Bill Jacksoni 
many a year at the Rendyvous afore the fur trade] 
petered. Damn the pilgrims ! The hull world s broke 
loose this spring. There s five thousand Mormons on 

132 



THE GREAT ENCAMPMENT 

ahead, praisin God every jump an eatin the grass 
below the roots. Womern an children so many of 
em, so many ! I kain t talk about hit ! Women don t 
belong out here! An now here you come bringin a 
thousand more! 

"There s a woman an a baby layin dead in our 
camp now," he concluded. "Died last night. The 
pilgrims is tryin to make coffins fer em out n cot- 
tonwood logs." 

"Lucky for all!" Jackson interrupted the garrulity 
of the other. "We buried men in blankets on the Ver 
milion a few days back. The Pawnees got a small 
camp o our own folks." 

"Yes, I know all about that." 

What s that?" cut in Banion. "How do you 

low?" 

Well, we ve got the survivors three o them, 
mntin Woodhull, their captain." 

"How did they get here?" 

They came in with a small outfit o Mormons that 
was north o the Vermilion. They d come out on the 

St. Jo road. They told me " 

Is Woodhull here can you find him?" 

"Shore! Ye want to see him?" 

"Yes." 

"He told me all about hit " 

"We know all about it, perhaps better than you do 
after he s told you all about it." 

Bridger looked at him, curious. 
133 



THE COVERED WAGON 

"Well, anyhow, hit s over," said he. "One of the 
men had a Pawnee arrer in his laig. Reckon hit hurt. 
I know, fer I carried a Black foot arrerhead under my 
shoulder blade fer sever l years. 

"But come on down and help me make these pilgrims 
set guards. Do-ee mind, now, the hull Sioux nation s 
just in ahead o us, other side the river! Yet these 
people didn t want to ford to the south side the Platte ; 
they wanted to stick north o the river. Ef we had, 
we d have our ha r dryin by now. I tell ye, the 
tribes is out to stop the wagon trains this spring. 
They say too many womern and children is comin , 
an that shows we want to take their land away fer 
keeps. 

"From now on to Oregon look out ! The Cayuses 
cleaned out the Whitman mission last spring in Oregon. 
Even the Shoshones is dancin . The Crows is out, 
the Cheyennes is marchin , the Bannocks is east o the 
Pass, an ye kain t tell when ter expeck the Blackfoots 
an* Grow Vaws. Never was gladder to see a man 
than I am to see Bill Jackson." 

"Stretchout!" 

Banion gave the order. The Missouri wagons came 
on, filed through the gap in order and with military ex 
actness wheeled into a perfect park at one side the main 
caravan. 

As the outer columns swung in, the inner spread out 
till the lapped wagons made a great oblong, Bridger 
watching them. Quickly the animals were outspanned, 

134 



THE GREAT ENCAMPMENT 

the picket ropes put down and the loose horses 
driven off to feed while the cattle were close herded. 
He nodded his approval. 

"Who s yer train boss, Bill?" he demanded. "That s 
good work." 

"Major Banion, of Doniphan s column in the war." 

"Will he fight?" 

"Try him!" 

News travels fast along a wagon train. Word passed 
now that there was a big Sioux village not far ahead, 
on the other side of the river, and that the caravan 
should be ready for a night attack. Men and women 
from the earlier train came into the Westport camp 
and the leaders formulated plans. More than four 
hundred families ate in sight of one another fires that 
evening. 

Again on the still air of the Plains that night rose 
the bugle summons, by now become familiar. In 
groups the wagon folk began to assemble at the council 
fire. They got instructions which left them serious. 
The camp fell into semi-silence. Each family returned 
to its own wagon. Out in the dark, flung around in 
a wide circle, a double watch stood guard. Wingate 
and his aids, Banion, Jackson, Bridger, the pick of the 
hardier men, went out for all the night. It was to 
Banion, Bridger and Jackson that most attention now 
was paid. Banion could not yet locate Woodhull in 
the train. 

The scouts crept out ahead of the last picket line, 
135 



THE COVERED WAGON 

for though an attack in mass probably would not come 
before dawn, if the Sioux really should cross the river, 
some horse stealing or an attempted stampede might be 
expected before midnight or soon after. 

The night wore on. The fires of willow twigs and 
bois des vaches fell into pale coals, into ashes. The 
chill of the Plains came, so that the sleepers in the 
great wagon corral drew their blankets closer about 
them as they lay. 

It was approaching midnight when the silence was 
ripped apart by the keen crack of a rifle another and 
yet another. 

Then, in a ripple of red detonation, the rifle fire ran 
along the upper front of the entire encampment. 

"Turn out! Turn out, men!" called the high, clear 
voice of Banion, riding back. "Barricade! Fill in 
the wheels !" 



CHAPTER XVIII 

ARROW AND PLOW 

THE night attack on the great emigrant encamp 
ment was a thing which had been preparing 
for years. The increasing number of the 
white men, the lessening numbers of the buffalo, meant 
inevitable combat with all the tribes sooner or later. 
Now the spring hunt of the northern Plains tribes 
was on. Five hundred lodges of the Sioux stood in 
one village on the north side of the Platte. The 
scaffolds were red with meat, everywhere the women 
were dressing hides and the camp was full of happiness. 
For a month the great Sioux nation had prospered, ac 
cording to its lights. Two hundred stolen horses were 
under the wild herdsmen, and any who liked the meat 
of the spotted buffalo might kill it close to camp from 
the scores taken out of the first caravans up the Platte 
that year the Mormons and other early trailers whom 
the Sioux despised because their horses were so few. 

But the Sioux, fat with boudins and depouille and 
marrowbones, had waited long for the great Western 
train which should have appeared on the north side of 
the Platte, the emigrant road from the Council Bluffs. 
For some days now they had known the reason, as Jim 

137 



THE COVERED WAGON 

Bridger had explained the wagons had forded the 
river below the Big Island. The white men s medicine 
was strong. 

The Sioux did not know of the great rendezvous at 
the forks of the Great Medicine Road. Their watch 
men, stationed daily at the eminences along the river 
bluffs of the north shore, brought back scoffing word 
of the carelessness of the whites. When they got ready 
they, too, would ford the river and take them in. They 
had not heeded the warning sent down the trail that 
no more whites should come into this country of the 
tribes. It was to be war. 

And now the smoke signals said yet more whites 
were coming in from the south! The head men rode 
out to meet their watchmen. News came back that 
the entire white nation now had come into the valley 
from the south and joined the first train. 

Here then was the chance to kill off the entire white 
nation, their women and their children, so there would 
be none left to come from toward the rising sun ! Yes, 
this would end the race of the whites without doubt 
or question, because they all were here. After killing 
these it would be easy to send word west to the 
Arapahoes and Gros Ventres and Cheyennes, the 
Crows, the Black feet, the Shoshones, the Utes, to fol 
low west on the Medicine Road and wipe out all who 
had gone on West that year and the year before. Then 
the Plains and the mountains would all belong to the 
red men again. 

38 



ARROW AND PLOW 

The chiefs knew that the hour just before dawn is 
when an enemy s heart is like water, when his eyes 
are heavy, so they did not order the advance at once. 
But a band of the young men who always fought to 
gether, one of the inner secret societies or clans of 
the tribe, could not wait so long. First come, first 
served. Daylight would be time to look over the 
children and to keep those not desired for killing, and 
to select and distribute the young women of the white 
nation. But the night would be best for taking the 
elk-dogs and the spotted buffalo. 

Accordingly a band from this clan swam and forded 
the wide river, crossed the island, and in the early 
evening came downstream back of a shielding fringe of 
cottonwoods. Their scouts saw with amazement the 
village of tepees that moved on wheels. They heard 
the bugle, saw the white nation gather at the medicine 
fire, heard them chant their great medicine song; then 
saw them disperse; saw the fires fall low. 

They laughed. The white nation was strong, but 
they did not put out guards at night! For a week 
the Sioux had watched them, and they knew about 
that. It would be easy to run off all the herd and to 
kill a few whites even now, beginning the sport before 
the big battle of to-morrow, which was to wipe out 
the white nation altogether. 

But when at length, as the handle of the Great 
Dipper reached the point agreed, the line of the Sioux 
clansmen crawled away from the fringe of trees and 

139 



THE COVERED WAGON 

out into the cover of a little slough that made toward 
the village of tepees on wheels, a quarter of a mile in 
front of the village men arose out of the ground and 
shot into them. Five of their warriors fell. Tall men 
in the dark came out and counted coup on them, took 
off their war bonnets; took off even more below the 
bonnets. And there was a warrior who rode this way 
and that, on a great black horse, and who had a strange 
war cry not heard before, and who seemed to have 
no fear. So said the clan leader when he told the 
story of the repulse. 

Taken aback, the attacking party found cover. But 
the Sioux would charge three times. So they scattered 
and crawled in again over a half circle. They found 
the wall of tepees solid; found that the white nation 
knew more of war than they had thought. They sped 
arrow after arrow, ball after ball, against the circle of 
the white tepees, but they did not break, and inside 
no one moved or cried out in terror; whereas outside, 
in the grass, men rose up and fired into them and did 
not run back, but came forward. Some had short rifles 
in their hands that did not need to be loaded, but kept 
on shooting. And none of the white nation ran away. 
And the elk-dogs with long ears, and the spotted 
buffalo, were no longer outside the village in the grass, 
but inside the village. What men could fight a nation 
whose warriors were so unfair as all this came to? 

The tribesmen drew back to the cotton woods a half 
mile. 

140 



ARROW AND PLOW 

"My heart is weak/* said their clan leader. "I be 
lieve they are going to shoot us all. They have killed 
twenty of us now, and we have not taken a scalp." 

"I was close/ said a young boy whom they called 
Bull Gets Up or The Sitting Bull. "I was close, and 
I heard the spotted buffalo running about inside the 
village ; I heard the children. To-morrow we can run 
them away." 

"But to-night what man knows the gate into their 
village? They have got a new chief to-day. They are 
many as the grass leaves. Their medicine is strong. 
I believe they are going to kill us all if we stay here." 
Thus the partisan. 

So they did not stay there, but went away. And at 
dawn Banion and Bridger and Jackson and each of the 
column captains others also came into the corral 
carrying war bonnets, shields and bows ; and some had 
things which had been once below war bonnets. The 
young men of this clan always fought on foot or on 
horse in full regalia of their secret order, day or night. 
The emigrants had plenty of this savage war gear 
now. 

"We ve beat them off," said Bridger, "an maybe 
they won t ring us now. Get the cookin done, Cap n 
Banion, an* let s roll out. But for your wagon park 
they d have cleaned us." 

The whites had by no means escaped scathless. A 
dozen arrows stood sunk into the sides of the wagons 
inside the park, hundreds had thudded into the outer 

141 



THE COVERED WAGON 

sides, nearest the enemy. One shaft was driven into 
the hard wood of a plow beam. Eight oxen staggered, 
legs wide apart, shafts fast in their bodies; four lay 
dead; two horses also; as many mules. 

This was not all. As the fighting men approached 
the wagons they saw a group of stern- faced women 
weeping around something which lay covered by a 
blanket on the ground. Molly Wingate stooped, drew 
it back to show them. Even Bridger winced. 

An arrow, driven by a buffalo bow, had glanced on 
the spokes of a wheel, risen in its flight and sped en 
tirely across the inclosure of the corral. It had slipped 
through the canvas cover of a wagon on the opposite 
side as so much paper and caught fair a woman who 
was lying there, a nursing baby in her arms, shielding 
it, as she thought, with her body. But the missile 
had cut through one of her arms, pierced the head of 
the child and sunk into the bosom of the mother deep 
enough to kill her also. The two lay now, the shaft 
transfixing both ; and they were buried there ; and they 
lie there still, somewhere near the Grand Island, in 
one of a thousand unknown and unmarked graves along 
the Great Medicine Road. Under the ashes of a 
fire they left this grave, and drove six hundred wagons 
over it, and the Indians never knew. 

The leaders stood beside the dead woman, hats in 
hand. This was part of the price of empire the life 
of a young woman, a bride of a year. 

The wagons all broke camp and went on in a vast 
142 



ARROW AND PLOW 

caravan, the Missourians now at the front. Noon, 
and the train did not halt. Banion urged the teamsters. 
Bridger and Jackson were watching the many signal 
smokes. 

"I m afeard o the next bend," said Jackson at 
length. 

The fear was justified. Early in the afternoon they 
saw the outriders turn and come back to the train at 
full run. Behind them, riding out from the con 
cealment of a clump of cotton woods on the near side 
of the scattering river channels, there appeared rank 
after rank of the Sioux, more than two thousand war 
riors bedecked in all the savage finery of their war dress. 
They were after their revenge. They had left their 
village and, paralleling the white men s advance, had 
forded on ahead. 

They came out now, five hundred, eight hundred, a 
thousand, two thousand strong, and the ground shook 
under the thunder of the hoofs. They were after their 
revenge, eager to inflict the final blow upon the white 
nation. 

The spot was not ill chosen for their tactics. The 
alkali plain of the valley swung wide and flat, and the 
trail crossed it midway, far back from the water and 
not quite to the flanking sand hills. While a few 
dashed at the cattle, waving their blankets, the main 
body, with workman-like precision, strung out and 
swung wide, circling the train and riding in to arrow 
range. 

143 



THE COVERED WAGON 

The quick orders of Banion and his scouts were 
obeyed as fully as time allowed. At a gallop, horse 
and ox transport alike were driven into a hurried park 
and some at least of the herd animals inclosed. The 
riflemen flanked the train on the danger side and fired 
continually at the long string of running horses, whose 
riders had flung themselves off-side so that only a heel 
showed above a pony s back, a face under his neck. 
Even at this range a half dozen ponies stumbled, 
figures crawled off for cover. The emigrants were 
stark men with rifles. But the circle went on until, 
at the running range selected, the crude wagon park 
was entirely surrounded by a thin racing ring of steel 
and fire stretched out over two or three miles. 

The Sioux had guns also, and though they rested 
most on the bow, their chance rifle fire was dangerous. 
As for the arrows, even from this disadvantageous 
station these peerless bowmen sent them up in a high 
arc so that they fell inside the inclosure and took their 
toll. Three men, two women lay wounded at the first 
ride, and the animals were plunging. 

The war chief led his warriors in the circle once 
more, chanting his own song to the continuous chorus 
of savage ululations. The entire fighting force of the 
Sioux village was in the circle. 

The ring ran closer. The Sioux were inside 
seventy-five yards, the dust streaming, the hideously 
painted faces of the riders showing through, red, saf- 

144 



ARROW AND PLOW 

fron, yellow, as one after another warrior twanged a 
bow under his horse s neck as he ran. 

But this was easy range for the steady rifles of men 
who kneeled and fired with careful aim. Even the 
six-shooters, then new to the Sioux, could work. Pony 
after pony fell, until the line showed gaps; whereas 
now the wagon corral showed no gap at all, while 
through the wheels, and over the tongue spaces, from 
every crevice of the gray towering wall came the 
fire of more and more men. The medicine of the white 
men was strong. 

Three times the ring passed, and that was all. The 
third circuit was wide and ragged. The riders dared 
not come close enough to carry off their dead and 
wounded. Then the attack dwindled, the savages 
scattering and breaking back to the cover of the stream. 

"Now, men, come on!" called out Banion. "Ride 
them down ! Give them a trimming they ll remember ! 
Come on, boys !" 

Within a half hour fifty more Sioux were down, 
dead or very soon to die. Of the living not one re 
mained in sight. 

"They wanted hit, an* they got hit!" exclaimed 
Bridger, when at length he rode back, four war bonnets 
across his saddle and scalps at his cantle. He raised 
his voice in a fierce yell of triumph, not much other than 
savage himself, dismounted and disdainfully cast his 
trophies across a wagon tongue. 

"I ve et horse an* mule an* dog," said he, "an* wolf, 
145 



THE COVERED WAGON 

wil cat an* skunk, an* perrairy dog an* snake an* most 
everything else that wears a hide, but I never could 
eat Sioux. But to-morrer we ll have ribs in camp. 
I ve seed the buffler, an* we own this side the river 
now." 

Molly Wingate sat on a bed roll near by, knitting as 
calmly as though at home, but filled with wrath. 

"Them nasty, dirty critters!" she exclaimed. "I 
wish t the boys had killed them all. Even in daylight 
they don t stand up and fight fair like men. I lost a 
whole churnin* yesterday. Besides, they killed my 
best cow this mornin , that s what they done. And 
lookit this thing !" 

She held up an Indian arrow, its strap-iron head 
bent over at right angles. "They shot this into our 
plow beam. Looks like they got a spite at our plow." 

"Ma am, they have got a spite at hit," said the old 
scout, seating himself on the ground near by. "They re 
scared o hit. I ve seed a bunch o Sioux out at 
Laramie with a plow some Mormon left around when 
he died. They d walk around and around that thing 
by the hour, talkin low to theirselves. They couldn t 
figger hit out no ways a-tall. 

"That season they sent a runner down to the Pawnees 
to make a peace talk, an to find out what this yere 
thing was the whites had brung out. Pawnees sen? 
to the Otoes, an the Otoes told them. They said hit was 
the white man s big medicine, an that hit buried all the 
buffler under the ground wherever hit come, so no bufikr 

146 



ARROW AND PLOW 

ever could git out again. Nacherl, when the runners 
come back an told what that thing really was, all the 
Injuns, every tribe, said if the white man was goin to 
bury the burner the white man had got to stay back. 

"Us trappers an* traders got along purty well with 
the Injuns they could get things they wanted at the 
posts or the Rendyvous, an that was all right. They 
had pelts to sell. But now these movers didn t buy 
nothin an didn t sell nothin . They just went on 
through, a-carryin this thing for buryin* the buffier. 
From now on the Injuns is goin to fight the whites. 
Ye kain t blame em, ma am ; they only see their finish. 

"Five years ago nigh a thousand whites drops down 
in Oregon. Next year come fifteen hundred, an in 
45 twicet that many, an so it has went, doublin, an 
doublin . Six or seven thousand whites go up the 
Platte this season, an a right smart sprinklin o* 
them ll git through to Oregon. Them at does ll carry 
plows. 

"Ma am, if the brave that sunk a arrer in yore plow 
beam didn t kill yore plow hit warn t because he didn t 
want to. Hit s the truth the plow does bury the 
buffler, an fer keeps! Ye kain t kill a plow, ner 
neither kin yer scare hit away. Hit s the holdin est 
thing ther is, ma am hit never does let go." 

"How long ll we wait here?" the older woman de 
manded. 

"Anyhow fer two-three days, ma am. Thar s a lot 
has got to sort out stuff an throw hit away here. One 

147 



THE COVERED WAGON 

man has drug a pair o millstones all the way to here 
from Ohio. He allowed to get rich startin a gris mill 
out in Oregon. An* then ther s chairs an* tables, an 
God knows what " 

"Well, anyhow," broke in Mrs. Wingate truculently, 
"no difference what you men say, I ain t going to leave 
my bureau, nor my table, nor my chairs! I m going 
to keep my two churns and my feather bed too. We ve 
had butter all the way so far, and I mean to have it 
all the way and eggs. I mean to sleep at nights, too, 
if the pesky muskeeters ll let me. They most have et 
me up. And I d give a dollar for a drink of real 
water now. It s all right to settle this water overnight, 
but that don t take the sody out of it. 

"Besides," she went on, "I got four quarts o seed 
wheat in one of them bureau drawers, and six cuttings 
of my best rose-bush I m taking out to plant in Oregon. 
And I got three pairs of Jed s socks in another bureau 
drawer. It s flat on its back, bottom of the load. I 
ain t going to dig it out for no man." 

"Well, hang on to them socks, ma am. I ve wintered 
many a time without none only grass in my 
moccasins. There s outfits in this train that s low on 
flour an side meat right now, let alone socks. We got 
to cure some meat. There s a million buffler just 
south in the breaks wantin to move on north, but 
scared of us an the Injuns. We d orto make a good 
hunt inside o ten mile to-morrer. We ll git enough 
meat to take us a week to jerk hit all, or else Jim Brid- 

148 



ARROW AND PLOW 

ger s a liar which no one never has said yit, ma am." 

"Flowers?" he added. "You takin flowers acrost? 
Flowers do they go with the plow, too, as well as 
weeds? Well, well! Wimmin folks shore air a strange 
race o people, hain t that the truth? Buryin the 
buffler an plantin flowers on his grave ! 

"But speakin o buryin things," he suddenly re 
sumed, "an speakin o plows, minds me o what s 
delayin us all right now. Hit s a fool thing, too 
bury in Injuns!" 

"As which, Mr. Bridger? What you mean?" in 
quired Molly Wingate, looking over her spectacles. 

"This new man, Banion, that come in with the Mis 
souri wagons he taken hit on hisself to say, atter 
the fight was over, we orto stop an bury all them 
Injuns ! Well, I been on the Plains an in the Rockies 
all my life, an I never yit, before now, seed a Injun 
buried. Hit s onnatcherl. But this here man he, now, 
orders a ditch plowed an them Injuns hauled in an* 
planted. Hit s wastin time. That s what s keepin* 
him an yore folks an sever l others. Yore husband 
an yore son is both out yan with him. Hit beats hell, 
ma am, these new-fangled ways !" 

"So that s where they are ? I wanted them to fetcK 
me something to make a fire." 

"I kain t do that, ma am. Mostly my squaws " 

"Your what? Do you mean to tell me you got 
squaws, you old heathen ?" 

"Not many, ma am only two. Times is hard sence 
149 



THE COVERED WAGON 

beaver went down. I kain t tell ye how hard this here 
depressin has set on us folks out here." 

"Two squaws! My laws! Two what s their 
names?" This last with feminine curiosity. 

"Well now, ma am, I call one on em Blast Yore 
Hide she s a Ute. The other is younger an pertier. 
She s a Shoshone. I call her Dang Yore Eyes. Both 
them women is powerful fond o me, ma am. They 
both are right proud o their names, too, because they 
air white names, ye see. Now when time comes fer 
a fire, Blast Yore Hide an Dang Yore Eyes, they 
fight hit out between em which gits the wood. I don t 
study none over that, ma am." 

Molly Wingate rose so ruffled that, like an angered 
hen, she seemed twice her size. 

"You old heathen !" she exclaimed. "You old mur- 
derin lazy heathen man I How dare you talk like that 
tome?" 

"As what, ma am? I hain t said nothin out n the 
way, have I ? O course, ef ye don t want to git the 
fire stuff, thar s yer darter she s young an strong. 
Yes, an perty as a picter besides, though like enough 
triflin , like her maw. Where s she at now?" 

"None of your business where." 

"I could find her." 

"Oh, you could! How?" 

"I d find that young feller Sam Woodhull that come 
in from below, renegadin away from his train with 
that party o Mormons him that had his camp jumped 

150 



ARROW AND PLOW 

by the Pawnees. I got a eye fer a womern, ma am, 
but so s he more n fer Injuns, I d say. I seed him 
with yore darter right constant, but I seemed to miss 
him in the ride. Whar was he at?" 

"I don t know as it s none of your business, any 
ways." 

"No? Well, I was just wonderin , ma am, because 
I heerd Cap n Banion ast that same question o yore 
husband, Cap n Wingate, an Cap n Wingate done said 
jest what ye said yerself that hit wasn t none o his 
business. Which makes things look shore hopeful an* 
pleasant in this yere train o pilgrims, this bright and 
pleasant summer day, huh?" 

Grinning amicably, the incorrigible old mountaineer 
rose and went his way, and left the irate good wife to 
gather her apron full of plains fuel for herself. 






CHAPTER XIX 
BANION OF DONIPHAN S 

MOLLY WINGATE was grumbing over her 
fire when at length her husband and son re 
turned to their wagon. Jed was vastly proud 
over a bullet crease he had got in a shoulder. After his 
mother s alarm had taken the form of first aid he was 
all for showing his battle scars to a certain damsel in 
Caleb Price s wagon. Wingate remained dour and 
silent as was now his wont, and cursing his luck that he 
had had no horse to carry him up in the late pursuit of 
the Sioux. He also was bitter over the delay in making 
a burial trench. 

"Some ways, Jess/* commented his spouse, "I d 
a most guess you ain t got much use for Will Banion." 

"Why should I have ? Hasn t he done all he could to 
shoulder me out of my place as captain of this train? 
And wasn t I elected at Westport before we started?" 

"Mostly, a man has to stay elected, Jess." 

"Well, I m going to ! I had it out with that young 
man right now. I told him I knew why he wanted in 
our train it was Molly." 

"What did he say?" 



BANION OF DONIPHAN S 

"What could he say? He admitted it. And he had 
the gall to say I d see it his way some day. Huh ! That s 
a long day off, before I do. Well, at least he said he was 
going back to his own men, and they d fall behind 
again. That suits me." 

"Did he say anything about finding Sam Woodhull?," 

"Yes. He said that would take its time, too." 

"Didn t say he wouldn t?" 

"No, I don t know as he did." 

"Didn t act scared of it?" 

"He didn t say much about it." 

"Sam does." 

"I reckon and why shouldn t he? He ll play evens 
some day, of course. But now, Molly," he went on, 
with heat, "what s the use talking? We both know that 
Molly s made up her mind. She loves Sam and don t 
love this other man any more than I do. He s only a 
drift-about back from the war, and wandering out to 
Oregon. He ll maybe not have a cent when he gets 
there. He s got one horse and his clothes, and one or 
two wagons, maybe not paid for. Sam s got five wa 
gons of goods to start a store with, and three thousand 
gold so he says as much as we have. The families 
are equal, and that s always a good thing. This man 
Banion can t offer Molly nothing, but Sam Woodhull 
can give her her place right from the start, out in Ore 
gon. We got to think of all them things. 

"And I ve got to think of a lot of other things, too. 
It s our girl. It s all right to say a man can go out to 

153 



THE COVERED WAGON 

Oregon and live down his past, but it s a lot better not 
to have no past to live down. You know what Major 
Banion done, and how he left the Army even if it 
wasn t why, it was how, and that s bad enough. Sam 
Woodhull has told us both all about Banion s record. 
If he d steal in Mexico he d steal in Oregon." 

"You didn t ever get so far along as to talk about 
that!" 

"We certainly did right now, him and me, not half 
an hour ago, while we was riding back." 

"I shouldn t have thought he d of stood it," said his 
wife, "him sort of fiery-like." 

"Well, it did gravel him. He got white, but wouldn t 
talk. Asked if Sam Woodhull had the proof, and I told 
him he had. That was when he said he d go back to his 
own wagons. I could see he was avoiding Sam. But 
I don t see how, away out here, and no law nor nothing, 
we re ever going to keep the two apart." 

"They wasn t." 

"No. They did have it out, like schoolboys behind 
a barn. Do you suppose that ll ever do for a man of 
spirit like Sam Woodhull? No, there s other ways. 
And as I said, it s a far ways from the law out here, and 
getting farther every day, and wilder and wilder every 
day. It s only putting it off, Molly, but on the whole I 
was glad when Banion said he d give up looking for 
Sam Woodhull this morning and go on back to his own 
men." 

"Did he say he d give it up?" 
154 



BANION OF DONIPHAN S 

"Yes, he did. He said if I d wait I d see different. 
Said he could wait said he was good at waiting." 
"But he didn t say he d give it up?" 
"I don t know as he did in so many words." 
"He won t," said Molly Wingate. 



CHAPTER XX 

THE BUFFALO 

THE emigrants had now arrived at the eastern 
edge of the great region of free and abundant 
meat. They now might count on at least six or 
seven hundred miles of buffalo to subsist them on their 
way to Oregon. The cry of "Buffalo ! Buffalo !" went 
joyously down the lines of wagons, and every man who 
could muster a horse and a gun made ready for that 
chase which above all others meant most, whether in 
excitement or in profit. 

Of these hundreds of hunters, few had any experi 
ence on the Plains. It was arranged by the head men 
that the hunt should be strung out over several miles, 
the Missourians farthest down the river, the others to 
the westward, so that all might expect a fairer chance 
in an enterprise of so much general importance. 

Banion and Jackson, in accordance with the former s 
promise to Wingate, had retired to their own train 
shortly after the fight with the Sioux. The Wingate 
train leaders therefore looked to Bridger as their safest 
counsel in the matter of getting meat. That worthy 
headed a band of the best equipped men and played his 
own part in full character. A wild figure he made as he 

156 



THE BUFFALO 

rode, hatless, naked to the waist, his legs in Indian 
leggings and his feet in moccasins. His mount, a com 
pact cayuse from west of the Rockies, bore no saddle 
beyond a folded blanket cinched on with a rawhide 
band. 

For weapons Bridger carried no firearms at all, but 
bore a short buffalo bow of the Pawnees double- 
curved, sinew-backed, made of the resilient bois d arc, 
beloved bow wood of all the Plains tribes. A thick sheaf 
of arrows, newly sharpened, swung in the beaver quiver 
at his back. Lean, swart, lank of hair, he had small 
look of the white man left about him as he rode now, 
guiding his horse with a jaw rope of twisted hair and 
playing his bow with a half dozen arrows held along 
it with the fingers of his left hand. 

"For buffler the bow s the best," said he. "I ll show 
ye before long." 

They had not too far to go. At that time the short- 
grass country of the Platte Valley was the great center 
of the bison herds. The wallows lay in thousands, the 
white alkali showing in circles which almost touched 
edge to edge. The influx of emigrants had for the time 
driven the herds back from their ancient fords and wa 
tering places, to which their deep-cut trails led down, 
worn ineradicably into the soil. It was along one of 
the great buffalo trails that they now rode, breasting 
the line of hills that edged the Platte to the south. 

When they topped the flanking ridge a marvelous 
example of wild abundance greeted them. Bands of 

157 



THE COVERED WAGON 

elk, yet more numerous bands of antelope, countless 
curious gray wolves, more than one grizzly bear made 
away before them, although by orders left unpursued. 
Of the feathered game they had now forgot all thought. 
The buffalo alone was of interest. The wild guide rode 
silent, save for a low Indian chant he hummed, his 
voice at times rising high, as though importunate. 

"Ye got to pray to the Great Speret when-all ye hunt, 
men," he explained. "An ye got to have someone that 
can call the buffler, as the Injuns calls that when they 
hunt on foot. I kin call em, too, good as ary Injun. 
Why shouldn t I? 

"Thar now!" he exclaimed within the next quarter 
of an hour. "What did Jim Bridger tell ye? Lookee 
yonder ! Do-ee say Jim Bridger can t make buffler medi 
cine? Do-ee see em over yan ridge thousands?" 

The others felt their nerves jump as they topped the 
ridge and saw fully the vast concourse of giant black- 
topped, beard- fronted creatures which covered the pla 
teau in a body a mile and more across a sight which 
never failed to thrill any who saw it. 

It was a rolling carpet of brown, like the prairie s 
endless wave of green. Dust clouds of combat rose here 
and there. A low muttering rumble of hoarse dull bel 
lowing came audible even at that distance. The spec 
tacle was to the novice not only thrilling it was terri 
fying. 

The general movement of the great pack was toward 
the valley ; closest to them a smaller body of some hun- 

158 



THE BUFFALO 

dreds that stood, stupidly staring, not yet getting the 
wind of their assailants. 

Suddenly rose the high-pitched yell of the scout, 
sounding the charge. Snorting, swerving, the horses 
of the others followed his, terror smitten but driven 
in by men most of whom at least knew how to ride. 

Smoothly as a bird in flight, Bridger s trained buffalo 
horse closed the gap between him and a plunging bunch 
of the buffalo. The white savage proved himself peer of 
any savage of the world. His teeth bared as he threw 
his body into the bow with a short, savage jab of the 
left arm as he loosed the sinew cord. One after another 
feather showed, clinging to a heaving flank; one after 
another muzzle dripped red with the white foam of 
running; then one after another great animal began to 
slow ; to stand braced, legs apart ; soon to begin slowly 
kneeling down. The living swept ahead, the dying lay 
in the wake. 

The insatiate killer clung on, riding deep into the 
surging sea of rolling humps. At times, in savage sure- 
ness and cruelty, he did not ride abreast and drive the 
arrow into the lungs, but shot from the rear, quarter 
ing, into the thin hide back of the ribs, so that the 
shaft ranged forward into the intestines of the victim. 
If it did not bury, but hung free as the animal kicked at 
it convulsively, he rode up, and with his hand pushed 
the shaft deeper, feeling for the life, as the Indians 
called it, with short jabs of the imbedded missile. Mas 
ter of an old trade he was, and stimulated by the proofs 

159 



THE COVERED WAGON 

of his skill his followers emulated him with their own 
weapons. The report of firearms, muffled by the rolling 
thunder of hoofs, was almost continuous so long as the 
horses could keep touch with the herd. 

Bridger paused only when his arrows were out, and 
grumbled to himself that he had no more, so could 
count only a dozen fallen buffalo for his product. That 
others, wounded, carried off arrows, he called bad luck 
and bad shooting. When he trotted back on his reeking 
horse, his quiver dancing empty, he saw other black 
spots than his own on the short grass. His followers 
had picked up the art not so ill. There was meat in 
sight now, certainly as well as a half dozen unhorsed 
riders and three or four wounded buffalo disposed to 
fight. 

The old hunter showed his men how to butcher the 
buffalo, pulling them on their bellies, if they had not 
died thus, and splitting the hide down the back, to make 
a receptacle for the meat as it was dissected; showed 
them how to take out the tongue beneath the jaw, after 
slitting open the lower jaw. He besought them not to 
throw away the back fat, the hump, the boss ribs or the 
intestinal boudins; in short, gave them their essential 
buffalo-hunting lessons. Then he turned for camp, he 
himself having no relish for squaw s work, as he called 
it, and well assured the wagons would now have abun 
dance. 



Banion and Jackson, with their followers, held their 
9 160 



THE BUFFALO 

hunt some miles below the scene of Bridget s chase, 
and had no greater difficulty in getting among the herds. 

"How re ye ridin , Will?" asked Jackson before they 
mounted for the start from camp. 

Banion slapped the black stallion on the neck. 

"Not his first hunt !" said he. 

"I don t mean yore hoss, but yore shootin irons. 
Whar s yore guns?" 

"I ll risk it with the dragoon revolvers," replied Ban- 
ion, indicating his holsters. "Not the first time for 
them, either." 

"No? Well, maybe-so they ll do; but fer me, I want 
a hunk o lead. Fer approachin a buffler, still-huntin , 
the rifle s good, fer ye got time an kin hold close. 
Plenty o our men ll hunt thataway to-day, an git meat; 
but fer me, give me a hunk o lead. See here now, I got 
only a shotgun, cap an ball, fourteen gauge, she is, an 
many a hide she s stretched. I kerry my bullets in my 
mouth an don t use no patchin ye hain t got time, 
when ye re runnin in the herd. I let go a charge o 
powder out n my horn, clos t as I kin guess hit, spit in 
a bullet, and roll her home on top the powder with a 
jar o the butt on top my saddle horn. That sots her 
down, an* she holds good enough to stay in till I ram 
the muzzle inter ha r an let go. She s the same as meat 
on the fire." 

"Well," laughed Banion, "you ve another case of de 
gustibus, I suppose." 

"You re another, an I call it back !" exclaimed the old 
161 



THE COVERED WAGON 

man so truculently that his friend hastened to explain. 

"Well, I speak Black foot, Crow, Bannack, Grow 
Vaw, Snake an Ute," grumbled the scout, "but I never 
run acrost no Latins out here. I allowed maybe-so ye 
was allowin I couldn t kill buffler with Ole Sal. That s 
what I keep her fer just buffler. I ll show ye afore 
long." 

And even as Bridger had promised for his favorite 
weapon, he did prove beyond cavil the efficiency of Old 
Sal. Time after time the roar or the double roar of his 
fusee was heard, audible even over the thunder of the 
hoofs; and quite usually the hunk of lead, driven into 
heart or lights, low down, soon brought down the game, 
stumbling in its stride. The old half breed style of load 
ing, too, was rapid enough to give Jackson as many 
buffalo as Bridger s bow had claimed before his horse 
fell back and the dust cloud lessened in the distance. 

The great speed and bottom of Banion s horse, as 
well as the beast s savage courage and hunting instinct, 
kept him in longer touch with the running game. Banion 
was in no haste. From the sound of firing he knew his 
men would have meat. Once in the surge of the run 
ning herd, the rolling backs, low heads and lolling 
tongues, shaggy frontlets and gleaming eyes all about 
him, he dropped the reins on Pronto s neck and began 
his own work carefully, riding close and holding low, 
always ready for the sudden swerve of the horse away 
from the shot to avoid the usual rush of the buffalo 
when struck. Since he took few chances, his shot rarely 

162 



THE BUFFALO 

failed. In a mile or so, using pains, he had exhausted 
all but two shots, one in each weapon, and of course no 
man could load the old cap-and-ball revolver while in 
the middle of a buffalo run. Now, out of sheer pride 
in his own skill with small arms, he resolved upon at 
tempting a feat of which he once had heard but never 
had seen. 

Jackson, at a considerable distance to the rear, saw 
his leader riding back of two bulls which he had cut off 
and which were making frantic efforts to overtake the 
herd. After a time they drew close together, running 
parallel and at top speed. At the distance, what Jackson 
saw was a swift rush of the black horse between the two 
bulls. For an instant the three seemed to run neck and 
neck. Then the rider s arms seemed extended, each on 
its side. Two puffs of blue smoke stained the gray dust. 
The black horse sprang straight ahead, not swerving to 
either side. Two stumbling forms slowed, staggered 
and presently fell Then the dust passed, and he saw 
the rider trot back, glancing here and there over the 
broad rolling plain at the work of himself and his men. 

"I seed ye do hit, boy!" exclaimed the grizzled old 
hunter when they met. "I seed ye plain, an ef I hadn t, 
an ye d said ye d did hit, I d of said ye was a liar." 

"Oh, the double?" Banion colored, not ill pleased at 
praise from Sir Hubert, praise indeed. "Well, I d heard 
it could be done." 

"Once is enough. Let em call ye a liar atter this! 
Ef ary one o them bulls had hit ye ye d have had no 

163 



THE COVERED WAGON 

hoss ; an* ary one was due to hit ye, or drive ye against 
the other, an* then he would. That s a trap I hain t 
ridin inter noways, not me!" 

He looked at his own battered piece a trifle ruefully. 

"Well, Ole Sal," said he, " pears like you an me 
ain t newfangled enough for these times, not none! 
When I git to Oregon, ef I ever do, I m a goin to stay 
than Times back, five year ago, no one dreamed o 
wagons, let alone plows. Fust thing, they ll be makin* 
plows with wheels, an rifles that s six-shooters tool" 

He laughed loud and long at his own conceit. 

"Well, anyways," said he, "we got meat. We ve 
licked one red nation an got enough meat to feed the 
white nation, all in a couple o days. Not so bad not 
so bad." 

And that night, in the two separate encampments, the 
white nation, in bivouac, on its battle ground, sat around 
the fires of bois des vaches till near morning, roasting 
boss ribs, breaking marrowbones, laughing, singing, 
boasting, shaking high their weapons of war, men mak 
ing love to their women the Americans, most terrible 
and most successful of all savages in history. 

But from one encampment two faces were missing 
until late Banion and Jackson of the Missourians. 
Sam Woodhull, erstwhile column captain of the great 
train, of late more properly to be called unattached, also 
was absent. It was supposed by their friends that these 
men might be out late, superintending the butchering, 

164 



THE BUFFALO 

or that at worst they were benighted far out and would 
find their way to camp the next morning. 

Neither of these guesses was correct. Any guess, to 
be correct, must have included in one solution the miss 
ing men of both encampments, who had hunted miles 
apart. 



CHAPTER XXI 

THE QUICKSANDS 

AS Banion and Jackson ended their part in the 
buffalo running and gave instructions to the 
wagon men who followed to care for the meat, 
they found themselves at a distance of several miles 
from their starting point. They were deep into a high 
rolling plateau where the going was more difficult than 
in the level sunken valley of the Platte. Concluding that 
it would be easier to ride the two sides of the triangle 
than the one over which they had come out, they headed 
for the valley at a sharp angle. As they rode, the keen 
eye of Jackson caught sight of a black object apparently 
struggling on the ground at the bottom of a little swale 
which made down in a long ribbon of green. 

"Look-ee yan !" he exclaimed. "Some feller s lost his 
buffler, I expect. Let s ride down an put him out n his 
misery afore the wolves does/ 

They swung off and rode for a time toward the 
strange object. Banion pulled up. 

"That s no buffalo! That s a man and his horse! 
He s bogged down!" 

"You re right, Will, an bogged bad ! I ve knew that 
light-green slough grass to cover the wurst sort o 

166 



THE QUICKSANDS 

quicksand. h<-* runs black sand under the mud, God 
knows how deep. Ye kain t run a buffler inter hit he 
knows. Come on !" 

They spurred down a half mile of gentle .s ,;pe, h.ird 
and firm under foot, and halted at the edge of one of 
the strange man-traps which sometimes were found in 
the undrained Plains a slough of tall, coarse, waving 
grass which undoubtedly got its moisture from some 
lower stratum. 

In places a small expanse of glistening black mud 
appeared, although for the most part the mask of inno 
cent-looking grass covered all signs of danger. It was, 
in effect, the dreaded quicksand, the octopus of the 
Plains, which covered from view more than one victim 
and left no discoverable trace. 

The rider had attempted to cross a narrow neck of 
the slough. His mount had begun to sink and flounder, 
had been urged forward until the danger was obvious. 
Then, too late, the rider had flung off and turned back, 
sinking until his feet and legs were gripped by the layer 
of deep soft sand below. It was one of the rarest but 
most terrible accidents of the savage wilderness. 

Blackened by the mud which lay on the surface, his 
hat half buried, his arms beating convulsively as he 
threw himself forward again and again, the victim 
must in all likelihood soon have exhausted himself. The 
chill of night on the high Plains soon would have done 
the rest, and by good fortune he might have died be 
fore meeting his entombment. His horse ere this had 



THE COVERED WAGON 

accepted fate, and ceasing to struggle lay almost buried, 
his head and neck supported by a trembling bit of float 
ing grass roots. 

"Steady, friend 1" called out Banion as he ran to the 
edge. "Don t fight it! Spread out your arms and lie 
still ! We ll get you out !" 

"Quick ! My lariat, Jackson, and yours !" he added. 

The scout was already freeing the saddle ropes. The 
two horses stood, reins down, snorting at the terror 
before them, whose menace they now could sense. 

"Take the horse !" called Banion. "I ll get the man !" 

He was coiling the thin, braided hide reata, soft as a 
glove and strong as steel, which always hung at the 
Spanish saddle. 

He cast, and cast again yet again, the loop at forty 
feet gone to nothing. The very silence of the victim 
nerved him to haste, and he stepped in knee deep, find 
ing only mud, the trickle of black sands being farther 
out. The rope sped once more, and fell within reach 
was caught. A sob or groan came, the first sound. Even 
then from the imprisoned animal beyond him came that 
terrifying sound, the scream of a horse in mortal terror. 
Jackson s rope fell short. 

"Get the rope under your arms !" called Banion to the 
blackened, sodden figure before him. Slowly, feebly, 
his order was obeyed. With much effort the victim got 
the loop below one arm, across a shoulder, and then 
paused. 

"Your rope, quick, Bill!" 
168 



THE QUICKSANDS 

Jaekson hurried and they joined the ends of the two 
ropes. 

"Not my horse -he s wild. Dally on to your own 
saddle, Bill, and go slow or you ll tear his head off." 

The scout s pony, held by the head and backed slowly, 
squatted to its haunches, snorting, but heaving strongly 
The head of the victim was drawn oddly toward his 
shoulder by the loop, but slowly, silently, his hands 
clutching at the rope, his body began to rise, to slip 
forward. 

Banion, deep as he dared, at last caught him by the 
collar, turned up his face. He was safe. Jackson heard 
the rescuer s deep exclamation, but was busy. 

"Cast free, Will, cast free quick, and I ll try for the 
horse !" 

He did try, with the lengthened rope, cast after cast, 
paying little attention to the work of Banion, who 
dragged out his man and bent over him as he lay mo 
tionless on the safe edge of the treacherous sunken 
sands which still half buried him. 

"No use !" exclaimed the older man. He ran to his 
saddle and got his deadly double barrel, then stepped as 
close as possible to the sinking animal as he could. 
There came a roar. The head of the horse dropped flat, 
began to sink. "Pore critter!" muttered the old man, 
capping his reloaded gun. He now hastened to aid 
Banion. 

The latter turned a set face toward him and pointed. 
The rescued man had opened his eyes. He reached now 
convulsively for a tuft of grass, paused, stared. 

169 



THE COVERED WAGON 

"Hit s Sam Woodhull !" ejaculated the scout. Then, 
suddenly, "Git away, Will move back !" 

Banion looked over his shoulder as he stood, his own 
hands and arms, his clothing, black with mire. The old 
man s gray eye was like a strange gem, gleaming at the 
far end of the deadly double tube, which was leveled 
direct at the prostrate man s forehead. 

"No !" Banion s call was quick and imperative. He 
flung up a hand, stepped between. "No! You d kill 
him now ?" 

With a curse Jackson flung his gun from him, began 
to recoil the muddied ropes. At length, without a word, 
he came to Banion s side. He reached down, caught an 
arm and helped Banion drag the man out on the grass. 
He caught off a handful of herbage and thrust it out to 
W r oodhull, who remained silent before what seemed 
his certain fate. 

"Wipe off yore face, you skunk!" said the scout. 
Then he seated himself, morosely, hands before knees. 

"Will Banion," said he, "ye re a fool a nacherl- 
borned, congenual, ingrain damned fool! Ye re flyin 
in the face o ; Proverdence, which planted this critter 
right here fer us ter leave where no one d ever be the 
wiser, an where he couldn t never do no more devil 
ment. Ye id jit, leave me kill him, ef ye re too chicken- 
hearted yoreself! Or leave us throw him back in 
again!" 

Banion would not speak at first, though his eyes 
never left Woodhull s streaked, ghastly face. 

170 



THE QUICKSANDS 

"By God!" said he slowly, at length, "if we hadn t 
joined Scott and climbed Chapultepec together, I d kill 
you like a dog, right here ! Shall I give you one more 
chance to square things for me? You know what I 
mean! Will you promise?" 

"Promise?" broke in Jackson. "Ye damned fool, 
would ye believe ary promise he made, even now ? I tell- 
ee, boy, he ll murder ye the fust chanct he gits I He s 
tried hit one night afore. Leave me cut his throat, 
Will ! Ye ll never be safe ontel I do. Leave me cut his 
throat er kill him with a rock. Hit s only right." 

Banion shook his head. 

"No," he said slowly, "I couldn t, and you must not." 

"Do you promise?" he repeated to the helpless man. 
"Get up stand up ! Do you promise will you swear?" 

"Swear? Hell!" Jackson also rose as Woodhull 
staggered to his feet. "Ye knew this man orto kill ye, 
an* ye sneaked hit, didn t ye? Whar s yer gun?" 

"There !" Woodhull nodded to the bog, over which 
no object now showed. "I m helpless! I ll promise! 
I ll swear!" 

"Then we ll not sound the No-quarter charge that 
you and I have heard the Spanish trumpets blow. You 
will remember the shoulder of a man who fought with 
you? You ll do what you can now at any cost?" 

"What cost?" demanded Woodhull thickly. 

Banion s own white teeth showed as he smiled. 

"What difference?" said he. "What odds?" 

"That s hit!" Again Jackson cut in, inexorable. 
171 



THE COVERED WAGON 

"Hit s no difference to him what he sw ars, yit he d 
bargain even now. Hit s about the gal!" 

"Hush!" said Banion sternly. "Not another word!" 

"Figure on what it means to you." He turned to 
Woodhull. "I know what it means to me. I ve got to 
have my own last chance, Woodhull, and I m saving 
you for that only. Is your last chance now as good as 
mine ? This isn t mercy I m trading now. You know 
what I mean." 

,Woodhull had freed his face of the mud as well as 
he could. He walked away, stooped at a trickle of 
water to wash himself. Jackson quietly rose and kicked 
the shotgun back farther from the edge. Woodhull 
now was near to Banion s horse, which, after his fash 
ion, always came and stood close to his master. The 
butts of the two dragoon revolvers showed in their 
holsters at the saddle. When he rose from the muddy 
margin, shaking his hands as to dry them, he walked 
toward the horse. With a sudden leap, without a word, 
he sprang beyond the horse, with a swift clutch at 
both revolvers, all done with a catlike quickness not to 
have been predicted. He stood clear of the plunging 
horse, both weapons leveled, covering his two rescuers. 

"Evener now !" His teeth bared. "Promise me!"- 

Jackson s deep curse was his answer. Banion rose, 
his arms folded. 

"You re a liar and a coward, Sam F said he. "Shoot, 
if you ve got the nerve !" 

Incredible, yet the man was a natural murderer. His 
172 



THE QUICKSANDS 

eye narrowed. There came a swift motion, a double 
empty click! 

Try again, Sam !" said Banion, taunting him. "Bad 
luck you landed on an empty !" 

He did try again. Swift as an adder, his hands 
flung first one and then the other weapon into action. 

Click after click, no more ; Jackson sat dumb, expect 
ing death. 

"They re all empty, Sam," said Banion at last as the 
murderer cast down the revolvers and stood with 
spread hands. "For the first time, I didn t reload. 
? I didn t think I d need them." 

"You can t blame me !" broke out Woodhull. "You 
said it was no quarter! Isn t a prisoner justified in 
trying to escape?" 

"You ve not escaped," said Banion, coldly now. 
"Rope him, Jackson." 

The thin, soft hide cord fell around the man s neck, 
tightened. 

"Now," shrilled Jackson, "I ll give ye a dog s death !" 

He sprang to the side of the black Spaniard, who by 
training had settled back, tightening the rope. 



CHAPTER XXII 

A SECRET OF TWO 

CATCHING the intention of the maddened man, 
now bent only on swift revenge, Banion sprang 
to the head of his horse, flinging out an arm to 
keep Jackson out of the saddle. The horse, frightened 
at the stubborn struggle between the two, sprang away. 
\Voodhull was pulled flat by the rope about his neck, 
nor could he loosen it now with his hands, for the 
horse kept steadily away. Any instant and he might be 
off in a mad flight, dragging the man to his death. 

"Ho ! Pronto Vien aqui !" 

Banion s command again quieted the animal. His 
ears forward, he came up, whickering his own query 
as to what really was asked of him. 

Banion caught the bridle rein once more and eased 
the rope. Jackson by now had his shotgun and was 
shouting, crazed with anger. Woodhull s life chance 
was not worth a bawbee. 

It was his enemy who saved it once again, for in 
scrutable but unaltered reasons of his own. 

"Drop that, Jackson !" called Banion. "Do as I tell 
you ! This man s mine !" 

Cursing himself, his friend, their captive, the horse, 

174 



A SECRET OF TWO 

his gun and all animate and inanimate Nature in his 
blood rage, the old man, livid in wrath, stalked away 
at length. "I ll kill him sometime, ef ye don t yerself !" 
he screamed, his beard trembling. "Ye damned fool !" 

"Get up, Woodhull !" commanded Banion. "You ve 
tried once more to kill me. Of course, I ll not take any 
oath or promise from you now. You don t understand 
such things. The blood of a gentleman isn t anywhere 
in your strain. But I ll give you one more chance 
give myself that chance too. There s only one thing 
you understand. That s fear. Yet I ve seen you on a 
firing line, and you started with Doniphan s men. We 
didn t know we had a coward with us. But you are a 
coward. 

"Now I leave you to your fear ! You know what I 
want more than life it is to me; but your life is all I 
have to offer for it. I m going to wait till then. 

"Come on, now ! You ll have to walk. Jackson won t 
let you have his horse. My own never carried a woman 
but once, and he s never carried a coward at all. Jack, 
son shall not have the rope. I ll not let him kill you." 

"What do you mean?" demanded the prisoner, not 
without his effrontery. 

The blood came back to Banion s face, his control 
breaking. 

"I mean for you to walk, trot, gallop, damn you! 
If you don t you ll strangle here instead of somewhere 
else in time." 

He swung up, and Jackson sullenly followed. 
175 



THE COVERED WAGON 

"Give me that gun/ ordered Banion, and took the 
shotgun and slung it in the pommel loop of his own 
saddle. 

The gentle amble of the black stallion kept the pris 
oner at a trot. At times Banion checked, never looking 
at the man following, his hands at the rope, panting. 

"Ye ll try him in the camp council, Will? began 
Jackson once more. "Anyways that? He s a murderer. 
He tried to kill us both, an he will yit. Boy, ye rid 
with Doniphan, an don t know the ley refugio ? Hasn t 
the prisoner tried to escape? Ain t that old as May- 
heeco Veeayjio? Take this skunk in on a good rope 
like that? Boy, ye re crazy!" 

"Almost," nodded Banion. "Almost. Come on. It s 
late." 

It was late when they rode down into the valley of 
the Platte. Below them twinkled hundreds of little 
fires of the white nation, feasting. Above, myriad stars 
shone in a sky unbelievably clear. On every hand rose 
the roaring howls of the great gray wolves, also feast 
ing now; the lesser chorus of yapping coyotes. The 
savage night of the Plains was on. Through it passed 
three savage figures, one a staggering, stumbling man 
,with a rope around his neck. ,. . 

They came into the guard circle, into the dog circle 
of the encampment; but when challenged answered, 
and were not stopped. 

"Here, Jackson," said Banion at length, "take the 
rope. I m going to our camp. I ll not go into this train. 

176 



A SECRET OF TWO 

Take this pistol it s loaded now. Let off the reata, 
walk close to this man. If he runs, kill him. Find 
Molly Wingate. Tell her Will Banion has sent her 
husband to her once more. It s the last time." 

He was gone in the dark. Bill Jackson, having first 
meticulously exhausted the entire vituperative resources 
of the English, the Spanish and all the Indian lan 
guages he knew, finally poked the muzzle of the pistol 
into Woodhull s back. 

"Git, damn ye!" he commanded. "Center, guide! 
Forrerd, march! Ye " 

He improvised now, all known terms of contempt 
having been heretofore employed. 

Threading the way past many feast fires, he did find 
the Wingate wagons at length, did find Molly Wingate. 
But there his memory failed him. With a skinny hand 
at Sam Woodhull s collar, he flung him forward. 

"Here, Miss Molly," said he, "this thing is somethin* 
Major Banion sont in ter ye by me. We find hit stuck in 
the mud. He said ye re welcome." 

But neither he nor Molly really knew why that other 
man had spared Sam Woodhull s life, or what it was 
he awaited in return for Sam Woodhull s life. 

All that Jackson could do he did. As he turned in 
the dark he implanted a heartfelt kick which sent Sam 
Woodhull on his knees before Molly Wingate as she 
stood in wondering silence. 

Then arose sudden clamor ings of those who had seen 
of this seen an armed man assault another, un- 
177 



THE COVERED WAGON 

armed and defenseless, at their very firesides. Men 
came running up. Jesse Wingate came out from the 
side of his wagon. 

"What s all this?" he demanded. "Woodhull, what s 
up ? \V nat s wrong here ?" 



CHAPTER XXIII 

AN ARMISTICE 

TO the challenge of Wingate and his men 
Jackson made answer with a high-pitched fight 
ing yell. Sweeping his pistol muzzle across and 
back again over the front of the closing line, he sprang 
into saddle and wheeled away. 

"Hit means we ve brung ye back a murderer. Git 
yer own rope ye kain t have mine! If ye-all want 
trouble with Old Missoury over this, er anything else, 
come runnin in the mornin*. Ye ll find us sp ilin fer 
a fight r 

He was off in the darkness. 

Men clustered around the draggled man, one of their 
own men, recently one in authority. Their indignation 
rose, well grounded on the growing feeling between 
the two segments of the train. When Woodhull had 
told his own story, in his own way, some were for 
raiding the Missouri detachment forthwith. Soberer 
counsel prevailed. In the morning Price, Hall and 
Kelsey rode over to the Missouri encampment and asked 
for their leader. Banion met them while the work of 
breaking camp went on, the cattle herd being already 
driven in and held at the rear by lank, youthful riders, 
themselves sp lin fer a fight. 

"Major Banion," began Caleb Price, "we ve come 
179 



THE COVERED WAGON 

over to get some sort of understanding between your 
men and ours. It looks like trouble. I don t want 
trouble." 

"Nor do I," rejoined Banion. "We started out for 
Oregon as friends. It seems to me that should remain 
our purpose. No little things should alter that/ 

"Precisely. But little things have altered it. I don t 
propose to pass on any quarrel between you and one of 
our people a man from your own town, your own 
regiment But that has now reached a point where it 
might mean open war between two parts of our train. 
.That would mean ruin. That s wrong." 

"Yes," replied Banion, "surely it is. You see, to 
avoid that, I was just ordering my people to pull out. 
I doubt if we could go on together now. I don t want 
war with any friends. I reckon we can take care of 
any enemies. Will this please you?" 

Caleb Price held out his hand. 

"Major, I don t know the truth of any of the things 
I ve heard, and I think those are matters that may be 
settled later on. But I am obliged to say that many of 
our people trust you and your leadership more than 
they do our own. I don t like to see you leave." 

"Well, then we won t leave. We ll hold back and 
follow you. Isn t that fair?" 

"It is more than fair, for you can go faster now than 
we can, like enough. But will you promise me one 
thing, sir?" 

"What is it?" 

1 80 




AN ARMISTICE 

If we get in trouble and send back for you, will 
you come?" 

"Yes, we ll come. But pull on out now, at once. 
My men want to travel. We ve got our meat slung on 
lines along the wagons to cure as we move. We ll 
wait till noon for you." 

"It is fair." Price turned to his associates. "Ride 
back, Kelsey, and tell WIngate we all think we should 
break camp at once. 

"You see," he added to Banion, "he wouldn t even 
ride over with us. I regret this break between you and 
him. Can t it be mended?" 

A sudden spasm passed across Will Banion s browned 
face. 

"It cannot," said he, "at least not here and now. But 
the women and children shall have no risk on that ac 
count. If we can ever help, we ll come." 

The two again shook hands, and the Wingate lieuten 
ants rode away, so ratifying a formal division of the 
train. 

"What do you make of all this, Hall?" asked sober- 
going Caleb Price at last. "What s the real trouble? 
Is it about the girl?" 

"Oh, yes ; but maybe more. You heard what Wood- 
hull said. Even if Banion denied it, it would be one 
man s word against the other s. Well, it s wide out 
here, and no law." 

"They ll fight?" 

"Will two roosters that has been breasted?" 
181 



CHAPTER XXIV 

THE ROAD WEST 

CAME now once more the notes of the bugle in 
signal for the assembly. Word passed down 
the scattered Wingate lines, "Catch up! 
Catch up !" 

Riders went out to the day guards with orders to 
round up the cattle. Dark lines of the driven stock 
began to dribble in from the edge of the valley. One 
by one the corralled vehicles broke park, swung front 
or rear, until the columns again held on the beaten road 
up the valley in answer to the command, "Roll out! 
Roll out!" The Missourians, long aligned and ready, 
fell in far behind and pitched camp early. There were 
two trains, not one. 

Now, hour after hour and day by day, the toil 
of the trail through sand flats and dog towns, deadly in 
its monotony, held them all in apathy. The light- 
heartedness of the start in early spring was gone. By 
this time the spare spaces in the wagons were kept filled 
with meat, for always there were buffalo now. Lines 
along the sides of the wagons held loads of rudely made 
jerky pieces of meat slightly salted and exposed to 
the clear dry air to finish curing. 

182 



THE ROAD WEST 

But as the people fed full there began a curious 
sloughing off of the social compact, a change in per 
sonal attitude. A dozen wagons, short of supplies or 
guided by faint hearts, had their fill of the Far West 
and sullenly started back east. Three dozen broke train 
and pulled out independently for the West, ahead of 
Wingate, mule and horse transport again rebelling 
against being held back by the ox teams. More and 
more community cleavages began to define. The curse 
of flies by day, of mosquitoes by night added increasing 
miseries for the travelers. The hot midday sun wore 
sore on them. Restless high spirits, grief over personal 
losses, fear of the future, alike combined to lessen the 
solidarity of the great train; but still it inched along on 
its way to Oregon, putting behind mile after mile of the 
great valley of the Platte. 

The grass now lay yellow in the blaze of the sun, 
the sandy dust was inches deep in the great road, cut by 
thousands of wheels. Flotsam and jetsam, wreckage, 
showed more and more. Skeletons of cattle, bodies not 
yet skeletons, aroused no more than a casual look. Fur 
niture lay cast aside, even broken wagons, their wheels 
fallen apart, showing intimate disaster. The actual 
hardships of the great trek thrust themselves into evi 
dence on every hand, at every hour. Often was passed 
a little cross, half buried in the sand, or the tail gate 
of a wagon served as head board for some ragged epi 
taph of some ragged man. 

It was decided to cross the South Fork at the upper 

184 



THE COVERED WAGON 

ford, so called. Here was pause again for the Wingate 
train. The shallow and fickle stream, fed by the June 
rise in the mountains, now offered a score of channels, 
all treacherous. A long line of oxen, now wading and 
now swimming, dragging a long rope to which a chain 
was rigged the latter to pull the wagon forward when 
the animals got footing on ahead made a constant 
sight for hours at a time. One wagon after another was 
snaked through rapidly as possible. Once bogged down 
in a fast channel, the fluent sand so rapidly rilled in the 
spokes that the settling wagon was held as though in a 
giant vise. It was new country, new work for them 
all; but they were Americans of the frontier. 

The men were in the water all day long, for four 
days, swimming, wading, digging. Perhaps the first 
plow furrow west of the Kaw was cast when some 
plows eased down the precipitous bank which fronted 
one of the fording places. Beyond that lay no mark 
of any plow for more than a thousand miles. 

They now had passed the Plains, as first they crossed 
the Prairie. The thin tongue of land between the two 
forks, known as the Highlands of the Platte, made 
vestibule to the mountains. The scenery began to 
change, to become rugged, semi-mountainous. They 
noted and held in sight for a day the Courthouse Rock, 
the Chimney Rock, long known to the fur traders, and 
opened up wide vistas of desert architecture new to 
their experiences. 

They were now amid great and varied abundance of 
184 






THE ROAD WEST 

game. A thousand buffalo, five, ten, might be in sight 
at one time, and the ambition of every man to kill his 
buffalo long since had been gratified. Black-tailed deer 
and antelope were common, and even the mysterious 
bighorn sheep of which some of them had read. Each 
tributary stream now had its delicious mountain trout. 
The fires at night had abundance of the best of food, 
cooked for the most part over the native fuel of the 
bois des v aches. 

The grass showed yet shorter, proving the late pre 
sence of the toiling Mormon caravan on ahead. The 
weather of late June was hot, the glare of the road 
blinding. The wagons began to fall apart in the dry, 
absorbent air of the high country. And always skele 
tons lay along the trail. An ox abandoned by its owners 
as too footsore for further travel might better hare 
been shot than abandoned. The gray wolves would 
surely pull it down before another day. Continuously 
such tragedies of the wilderness went OQ before their 
wearying eyes. 

Breaking down from the highlands through the Ash 
Hollow gap, the train felt its way to the level of the 
North Fork of the great river which had led them for 
so long. Here some trapper once had built a cabin 
the first work of the sort in six hundred miles and by 
some strange concert this deserted cabin had years 
earlier been constituted a post office of the desert. Hun 
dreds of letters, bundles of papers were addressed to 
people all over the world, east and west. No govern- 

185 



THE COVERED WAGON 

ment recognized this office, no postage was employed 
in it. Only, in the hope that someone passing east or 
west would carry on the inclosures without price, folk 
here sent out their souls into the invisible. 

"How far ll we be out, at Laramie?" demanded 
Molly Wingate of the train scout, Bridger, whom Ban- 
ion had sent on to Wingate in spite of his protest. 

"Nigh onto six hundred an* sixty-seven mile they 
call hit, ma am, from Independence to Laramie, an* 
we ll be two months a-makin hit, which everges around 
ten mile a day." 

"But it s most to Oregon, hain t it?" 

"Most to Oregon? Ma am, it s nigh three hundred 
mile beyond Laramie to the South Pass, an the South 
Pass hain t half-way to Oregon, ^hy, ma am, we ain t 
well begun 1" 



CHAPTER XXY 

OLD LARAMIE 

AN old gray man in buckskins sat on the 
ground in the shade of the adobe stockade at 
old Fort Laramie, his knees high in front of 
him, his eyes fixed on the ground. His hair fell over 
his shoulders in long curls which had once been brown. 
His pointed beard fell on his breast. He sat silent and 
motionless, save that constantly he twisted a curl around 
a forefinger, over and over again. It was his way. He 
was a long-hair, a man of another day. He had seen 
the world change in six short years, since the first 
wagon crossed yonder ridges, where now showed yet 
one more wagon train approaching. 

He paid no attention to the debris and discard of this 
new day which lay all about him as he sat and dreamed 
of the days of trap and packet. Near at hand were 
pieces of furniture leaning against the walls, not bought 
or sold, but abandoned as useless here at Laramie. 
Wagon wheels, tireless, their fellies falling apart, lay 
on the ground, and other ruins of great wagons, dried 
and disjointed now. 

Dust lay on the ground. The grass near by was all 



THE COVERED WAGON 

cropped short Far off, a village of the Cheyennes, 
come to trade, and sullen over the fact that little now 
could be had for robes or peltries, grazed their ponies 
aside from the white man s road. Six hundred lodges 
of the Sioux were on the tributary river a few miles 
distant. The old West was making a last gallant stand 
at Laramie, 

Inside the gate a mob of white men, some silent and 
businesslike, many drunken and boisterous, pushed 
here and there for access to the trading shelves, long 
since almost bare of goods. Six thousand emigrants 
passed that year. 

It was the Fourth of July in Old Lararnie, and men 
in jeans and wool and buckskin were celebrating. Old 
Laramie had seen life all of life, since the fur days of 
La Ramee in 1821. Having now superciliously sold out 
to these pilgrims, reserving only alcohol enough for its 
own consumption, Old Laramie was willing to let the 
world wag, and content to twiddle a man curl around 
a finger. 

But yet another detachment of the great army follow 
ing the hegira of the Mormons was now approaching 
Laramie. In the warm sun of mid-morning, its worn 
wheels rattling, its cattle limping and with lolling 
tongues, this caravan forded and swung wide into cor 
ral below the crowded tepees of the sullen tribesmen. 

Ahead of it now dashed a horseman, swinging his 
rifle over his head and uttering Indian yells. He pulled 
up at the very door of the old adobe guard tower with 

1 88 



OLD LARAMIE 

its mounted swivel guns ; swung off, pushed on into the 
honeycomb of the inner structure. 

The famous border fortress was built around a 
square, the living quarters on one side, the trading 
rooms on another. Few Indians were admitted at one 
time, other than the Indian wives of the engages, the 
officials of the fur company or of the attached white or 
half breed hunters. Above some of the inner buildings 
were sleeping lofts. The inner open space served as a 
general meeting ground. Indolent but on guard, Old 
Laramie held her watch, a rear guard of the passing 
West in its wild days before the plow. 

All residents here knew Jim Bridger. He sought out 
the man in charge, 

"How, Bordeaux?" he began. "Whar s the bour 
geois, Papin?" 

"Down river h east h after goods." 

The trader, hands on his little counter, nodded to his 
shelves. 

"Nada!" he said in his polyglot speech. "Hi ll not 
got a damned thing lef . How many loads you ll got 
for your h own post, Jeem?" 

"Eight wagons. Iron, flour and bacon." 

"Hi ll pay ye double here what you ll kin git retail 
there, Jeem, and take it h all h off your hand. This 
h emigrant, she ll beat the fur." 

"I ll give ye half," said Bridger. "Thar s people here 
needs supplies that ain t halfway acrost. But what s the 
news, Bordeaux? Air the Crows down?" 



THE COVERED WAGON 

"H on the Sweetwater, h awaitin* for the peelgrim, 
Hi ll heard of your beeg fight on the Platte. Plenty 
beeg fight on ahead, too, maybe-so. You ll bust h up the 
trade, Jeem. My Sioux, she s scare to come h on the 
post h an trade. He ll stay h on the veelage, her." 

"Every dog to his own yard. Is that all the news ?" 

"Five thousand Mormons, he ll gone by h aready. 
H womans pullin* the han cart, sacre Enfant! News 
you ll h ought to know the news. You ll been h on 
the settlement six mont !" 

"Hit seemed six year. The hull white nation s 
movin . So. That all?" 

"Well, go h ask Keet. He s come h up South Fork 
yesterdays. Maybe-so quelq* cho des nouvelles h out 
\Vest. I dunno, me." 

"Kit Kit Carson, you mean? What s Kit doing 
here?" 

"Oui. I dunno, me." 

He nodded to a door. Bridger pushed past him. 
In an inner room a party of border men were playing 
cards at a table. Among these was a slight, sandy- 
haired man of middle age and mild, blue eye. It was 
indeed Carson, the redoubtable scout and guide, a better 
man even than Bridger in the work of the wilderness. 

"How are you, Jim?" he said quietly, reaching up 
a hand as he sat. "Haven t seen you for five years. 
What are you doing here ?" 

He rose now and put down his cards. The game 
broke up. Others gathered around Bridger and 

190 



OLD LARAMIE 

greeted him. It was some time before the two mountain 
men got apart from the others. 

"What brung ye north, Kit?" demanded Bridger at 
length. "You was in Calif orny in 47, with the 
General." 

"Yes, I was in California this spring. The treaty s 
been signed with Mexico. We get the country from the 
Rio Grande west, including California. I m carrying 
dispatches to General Kearny at Leavenworth. There s 
talk about taking over Laramie for an Army post. The 
tribes are up in arms. The trade s over, Jim." 

"What I know, an have been sayin ! Let s have a 
drink, Kit, fer old times." 

Laughing, Carson turned his pockets inside out. As 
he did so something heavy fell from his pocket to the 
floor. In courtesy as much as curiosity Bridger stooped 
first to pick it up. As he rose he saw Carson s face 
change as he held out his hand. 

"What s this stone, Kit yer medicine?" 

But Bridger s own face altered suddenly as he now 
guessed the truth. He looked about him suddenly, his 
mouth tight Kit Carson rose and they passed from 
the room. 

"Only one thing heavy as that, Mister Kit!" said 
Bridger fiercely. "Where d you git hit ? My gran pap 
had some o that. Hit come from North Carliny years 
ago. I know what hit is hit s gold ! Kit Carson, damn 
ye, hit s the gold!" 

"Shut your mouth, you fool !" said Carson. "Yes, 
191 



THE COVERED WAGON 

it s gold. But do you want me to be a liar to my Gen 
eral? That s part of my dispatches." 

"Hit come from Calif orny?" 

"Curse me, yes, California! I was ordered to get the 
news to the Army first. You re loose-tongued, Jim. 
Can you keep this?" 

"Like a grave, Kit." 

Then here!" 

Carson felt inside his shirt and pulled out a meager 
and ill-printed sheet which told the most epochal news 
that this or any country has known the midwinter dis 
covery of gold at Sutter s Mills. 

A flag was flying over Laramie stockade, and this flag 
the mountain men saw fit to salute with many libations, 
hearing now that it was to fly forever over California 
as over Oregon. Crowding the stockade inclosure fuK 
was a motley throng border men in buckskins, en 
gages swart as Indians, French breeds, full-blood Chey- 
ennes and Sioux of the northern hills, all mingling with 
the curious emigrants who had come in from the wagon 
camps. Plump Indian girls, many of them very comely, 
some of them wives of the trappers who still hung about 
Laramie, ogled the newcomers, laughing, giggling to 
gether as young women of any color do, their black hair 
sleek with oil, their cheeks red with vermilion, their 
wrists heavy with brass or copper or pinchbeck circlets, 
their small moccasined feet peeping beneath gaudy 
calico given them by their white lords. Older squaws, 
envious but perforce resigned, muttered as their own 

192 



OLD LARAMIE 

stern- faced stolid red masters ordered them to keep 
close. Of the full-bloods, whether Sioux or Cheyennes, 
only those drunk were other than sullenly silent and 
resentful as they watched the white man s orgy at Old 
Laramie on the Fourth of July of 1848. 

Far flung along the pleasant valley lay a vast picture 
possible in no other land or day. The scattered covered 
wagons, the bands of cattle and horses, the white tents 
rising now in scores, the blue of many fires, all proved 
that now the white man had come to fly his flag over a 
new frontier. 

Bridger stood, chanting an Indian song. A group of 
men came out, all excited with patriotic drink. A tall 
man in moccasins led, his fringed shirt open over a 
naked breast, his voung squaw following him. 

"Let me see one o them damned things!" he was 
exclaiming. "That s why I left home fifty year ago. 
Pap wanted to make me plow ! I ain t seed one since, 
but I ll bet a pony I kin run her right now ! Go git yer 
plow things, boys, an fotch on ary sort of cow critter 
suits ye. I ll bet I kin hook em up an plow with em, 
too, right yere !" 

The old gray man at the gate sat and twisted his long 
curls. 

The sweet wind of the foothills blew aslant the 
smokes of a thousand fires. Over the vast landscape 
passed many moving figures. Young Indian men, mostly 
Sioux, some Cheyennes, a few Gros Ventres of the 
Prairie, all peaceable under the tacit truce of the trading 

193 



THE COVERED WAGON 

post, rode out from their villages to their pony herds. 
From the post came the occasional note of an inhar 
monic drum, struck without rhythm by a hand gone 
lax. The singers no longer knew they sang. The border 
feast had lasted long. Keg after keg had been broached. 
The Indian drums were going. Came the sound of 
monotonous chants, broken with staccato yells as the 
border dance, two races still mingling, went on with 
aboriginal excesses on either side. On the slopes as 
dusk came twinkled countless tepee fires. Dogs barked 
mournfully a-distant. The heavy half roar of the buf 
falo wolves, superciliously confident, echoed from the 
broken country. 

Now and again a tall Indian, naked save where he 
clutched his robe to him unconsciously, came staggering 
to his tepee, his face distorted, yelling obscene words 
and not knowing what he said. Patient, his youngest 
squaw stood by his tepee, his spear held aloft to mark 
his door plate, waiting for her lord to come. Wolfish 
dogs lay along the tepee edges, noses in tails, eyeing the 
master cautiously. A grumbling old woman mended 
the fire at her own side of the room, nearest the door, 
spreading smooth robes where the man s medicine hung 
at the willow tripod, his slatted lazyback near by. In 
due time all would know whether at the game of 
"hands," while the feast went on, the little elusive bone 
had won or lost for him. Perhaps he had lost his 
horses, his robes, his weapons his squaws. The white 

194 



OLD LARAMIE 

man s medicine was strong, and there was much of it 
on his feasting day. 

From the stockade a band of mounted Indians, brave 
in new finery, decked with eagle bonnets and gaudy in 
beaded shirts and leggings, rode out into the slopes, 
chanting maudlin songs. They were led by the most 
beautiful young woman of the tribe, carrying a wand 
topped by a gilded ball, and ornamented with bells, 
feathers, natural flowers. As the wild pageant passed 
the proud savages paid no attention to the white men. 

The old gray man at the gate sat and twisted his 
long curls. 

And none of them knew the news from California. 



nr 



CHAPTER XXVI 

THE FIRST GOLD 

HE purple mantle of the mountain twilight was 
dropping on the hills when Bridger and Car- 

-*- son rode out together from the Laramie stock 
ade to the Wingate encampment in the valley. The ex 
traordinary capacity of Bridger in matters alcoholic 
left him still in fair possession of his faculties ; but some 
new purpose, born of the exaltation of alcohol, now 
held his mind. 

"Let me see that little dingus ye had, Kit," said he 
"that piece o gold." 

Carson handed it to him. 

"Ye got any more o hit, Kit?" 

"Plenty! You can have it if you ll promise not to 
tell where it came from, Jim." 

"If I do, Jim Bridget s a liar, Kit!" 

He slipped the nugget into his pocket. They rode 
to the head of the train, where Bridger found Wingate 
and his aids, and presented his friend. They all, of 
course, knew of Fremont s famous scout, then at the 
height of his reputation, and greeted him with enthu 
siasm. As they gathered around him Bridger slipped 
away. Searching among the wagons, he at last found 
Molly Wingate and beckoned her aside with portentous 
injunctions of secrecy. 

196 



THE FIRST GOLD 

In point of fact, a sudden maudlin inspiration had 
seized Jim Bridger, so that a promise to Kit Carson 
seemed infinitely less important than a promise to this 
girl, whom, indeed, with an old man s inept infatuation, 
he had worshiped afar after the fashion of white men 
long gone from society of their kind. Liquor now 
made him bold. Suddenly he reached out a hand and 
placed in Molly s palm the first nugget of California 
gold that ever had come thus far eastward. Physically 
heavy it was; of what tremendous import none then 
could have known. 

Til give ye this!" he said. "An I know whar s 
plenty more." 

She dropped the nugget because of the sudden weight 
in her hand ; picked it up 

"Gold!" she whispered, for there is no mistaking 
gold. 

"Yes, gold!" 

"Where did you get it?" 

She was looking over her shoulder instinctively. 

"Listen! Ye ll never tell? Ye mustn t! I swore to 
Kit Carson, that give hit to me, I d never tell no one. 
But I ll set you ahead o any livin bein , so maybe some 
day ye ll remember old Jim Bridger. 

"Yes, hit s gold! Kit Carson brung it from Sutter s 
Fort, on the Sacramenty, in Calif orny. They ve got it 
thar in wagonloads. Kit s on his way east now to tell 
the Army!" 

"Everyone will know!" 

197 



THE COVERED WAGON 

"Yes, but not now ! Ef ye breathe this to a soul, 
thar won t be two wagons left together in the train. 
Thar ll be bones o womern from here to Californy!" 

Wide-eyed, the girl stood, weighing the nugget in her 
hands. 

"Keep hit, Miss Molly," said Bridger simply. "I 
don t want hit no more. I only got hit fer a bracelet 
fer ye, or something. Good-by. I ve got to leave the 
train with my own wagons afore long an head fer my 
fort. Ye ll maybe see me old Jim Bridger when ye 
come through. 

"Yes, Miss Molly, I ain t as old as I look, and I got a 
fort o my own beyant the Green River. This year, what 
I ll take in for my cargo, what I ll make cash money fer 
work fer the immygrints, I ll salt down anyways ten 
thousand; next year maybe twicet that, or even more. 
I sartainly will do a good trade with them Mormons." 

"I suppose," said the girl, patient with what she 
knew was alcoholic garrulity. 

"An* out there s the purtiest spot west o the Rockies. 
My valley is ever thing a man er a womern can ask or 
want. And me, I m a permanent man in these yere 
parts. It s me, Jim Bridger, that fust diskivered the 
Great Salt Lake. It s me, Jim Bridger, fust went 
through Colter s Hell up in the Yellowstone. Ain t a 
foot o the Rockies I don t know. I eena-most built the 
Rocky Mountains, me." He spread out his hands. 
"And I ve got to be eena most all Injun myself." 

"I suppose." The girl s light laugh cut him. 



THE FIRST GOLD 

"But never so much as not to rever nce the white 
woman, Miss Molly. Ye re all like angels to us wild 
men out yere. We we never have forgot. And so I 
give ye this, the fust gold from Calif orny. There may 
be more. I don t know." 

"But you re going to leave us? What are you going 
to do?" A sudden kindness was in the girl s voice. 

"I m a-goin out to Fort Bridger, that s what I m 
a-goin to do ; an* when I git thar I m a-goin to lick hell 
out o both my squaws, that s what I m a-goin to do ! 
One s named Blast Yore Hide, an* t other Dang Yore 
Eyes. Which, ef ye ask me, is two names right an 
fitten, way I feel now." 

All at once Jim Bridger was all Indian again. He 
turned and stalked away. She heard his voice rising in 
his Indian chant as she turned back to her own wagon 
fire. 

But now shouts were arising, cries coming up the 
line. A general movement was taking place toward the 
lower end of the camp, where a high quavering call 
rose again and again. 

"There s news!" said Carson to Jesse Wingate 
quietly. "That s old Bill Jackson s war cry, unless I am 
mistaken. Is he with you?" 

"He was," said Wingate bitterly. "He and his 
friends broke away from the train and have been flock 
ing by themselves since then." 

Three men rode up to the Wingate wagon, and two 
flung off. Jackson was there, yes, and Jed Wingate, 

199 



THE COVERED WAGON 

his son. The third man still sat his horse. Wingate 
straightened. 

"Mr. Banion ! So you see fit to come into my camp ?" 
For the time he had no answer. 

"How are you, Bill?" said Kit Carson quietly, as he 
now stepped forward from the shadows. The older 
man gave him a swift glance. 

"Kit! You here why?" he demanded. "I ve not 
seed ye, Kit, sence the last Rendyvous on the Green. 
Ye ve been with the Army on the coast?" 

"Yes. Going east now." 

"Allus ridin back and forerd acrost the hull country. 
I d hate to keep ye in buckskin breeches, Kit. But ye re 
carryin news?" 

"Yes," said Carson. "Dispatches about new Army 
posts to General Kearny. Some other word for him, 
and some papers to the Adjutant General of the Army. 
Besides, some letters from Lieutenant Beale in Mexico, 
about war matters and the treaty, like enough. You 
know, we ll get all the southern country to the Coast?" 

"An welcome ef we didn t! Not a beaver to the 
thousand miles, Kit. I m goin to Oregon goin to 
settle in the Nez Perce country, whar there s horses 
an beaver." 

"But wait a bit afore you an me gits too busy talkin . 
Ye see, I m with Major Banion, yan, an the Missoury 
train. We re in camp ten mile below. We wouldn t 
mix with these people no more only one way but I 
reckon the Major s got some business o his own that 

200 



THE FIRST GOLD 

brung him up. I rid with him. We met the boy an* ast 
him to bring us in. We wasn t sure how friendly our 
friends is feelin towards him an me." 

He grinned grimly. As he spoke they both heard 
a woman s shrilling, half greeting, half terror. Wingate 
turned in time to see his daughter fall to the ground in 
a sheer faint. 

Will Banion slipped from his saddle and hurried 
forward. 



CHAPTER XXVII 

TWO WHO LOVED 

JESSE WINGATE made a swift instinctive mo- 
tion toward the revolver which swung at his hip. 
But Jed sprang between him and Banion. 

"No! Hold on, Papstop !" cried Jed. "It s all 
right. I brought him in. 

"As a prisoner?" 

"I am no man s prisoner, Captain iWingate," said 
Banion s deep voice. 

His eyes were fixed beyond the man to whom he 
spoke. He saw Molly, to whom her mother now ran, 
to take the white face in her own hands. Wingate 
looked from one to the other. 

"Why do you come here ? What do I owe you that 
you should bring more trouble, as you always have? 
And what do you owe me?" 

"I owe you nothing!" said Banion. "You owe me 
nothing at all. I have not traveled in your train, and 
I shall not travel in it. I tell you once more, you re 
wrong in your beliefs; but till I can prove that I ll 
not risk any argument about it." 

"Then why do you come to my camp now ?" 

"You should know." 

202 

I 



TWO WHO LOVED 

"I do know. It s Molly!" 

"It s Molly, yes. Here s a letter from her. I found 
it in the cabin at Ash Hollow. Your friend Woodhull 
could have killed me we passed him just now. Jed 
could have killed me you can now; it s easy. But 
that wouldn t change me. Perhaps it wouldn t change 
her." 

"You come here to face me down?" 

"No, sir. I know you for a brave man, at least. I 
don t believe I m a coward I never asked. But I 
came to see Molly, because here she s asked it. I don t 
know why. Do you want to shoot me like a coyote?" 

"No. But I ask you, what do I owe you ?" 

"Nothing. But can we trade? If I promise to 
leave you with my train ?" 

"You want to steal my girl !" 

"No ! I want to earn her some day." 

The old Roman before him was a man of quick 
and strong decisions. The very courage of the young 
man had its appeal. 

"At least you ll eat," said he. "I d not turn even a 
black Secesh away hungry not even a man with your 
record in the Army." 

"No, I ll not eat with you." 

"Wait then! I ll send the girl pretty soon, if you 
are here by her invitation. I ll see she never invites 
you again." 

Wingate walked toward his wagon. Banion kept 
out of the light circle and found his horse. He stood, 

203 



THE COVERED WAGON 

leaning his head on his arms in the saddle, waiting, 
until after what seemed an age she slipped out of the 
darkness, almost into his arms, standing pale, her 
fingers lacing and unlacing the girl who had kissed 
him once to say good-by. 

"Will Banion!" she whispered. "Yes, I sent for 
you. I felt you d find the letter. 1 

"Yes, Molly." It was long before he would look at 
her. "You re the same," said he. "Only you ve grown 
more beautiful every day. It s hard to leave you 
awfully hard. I couldn t, if I saw you often." 

He reached out again and took her in his arms, 
softly, kissed her tenderly on each cheek, whispered 
things that lovers do say. But for his arms she would 
have dropped again, she was so weak. She fought 
him off feebly. 

"No! No! It is not right! No! No!" 

"You re not going to be with us any more ?" she said 
at last. 

He shook his head. They both looked at his horse, 
his rifle, swung in its sling strap at the saddle horn. 
She shook her head also. 

"Is this the real good-by, Will?" Her lips trem 
bled. 

"It must be. I have given my word to your father. 
But why did you send for me? Only to torture me? 
I must keep my word to hold my train apart. I ve 
promised my men to stick with them." 

"Yes, you mustn t break your word. And it was 
204 



TWO WHO LOVED 

fine just to see you a minute, Will; just to tell you 
oh, to say I love you, Will ! But I didn t think that was 
why I sent. I sent to warn you against him. It 
seems always to come to the same thing." 

She was trying not to sob. The man was in but 
little better case. The stars did not want them to part. 
All the somber wilderness world whispered for them 
to love and not to part at all. But after a time they 
knew that they again had parted, or now were able 
to do so. 

"Listen, Will," said the girl at last, putting back a 
lock of her fallen hair. "I ll have to tell you. We ll 
meet in Oregon ? I ll be married then. I ve promised. 
Oh, God help me! I think I m the wickedest woman 
in all the world, and the most unhappy. Oh, Will 
Banion, I I love a thief! Even as you are, I love 
you! I guess that s why I sent for you, after all. 

"Go find the scout Jim Bridger!" she broke out 
suddenly. "He s going on ahead. Go on to his fort 
with him he ll have wagons and horses. He knows 
the way. Go with Bridger, Will! Don t go to Ore 
gon! I m afraid for you. Go to California and 
forget me ! Tell Bridger " 

"Why, where is it?" she exclaimed. 

She was feeling in the pocket of her apron, and it 
was empty. 

"I ve lost it!" she repeated. "I lose everything!" 

"What was it, Molly?" 

She leaned her lips to his ear. 
205 



THE COVERED WAGON 

"It was gold!" 

He stood, the magic name of that metal which shows 
the color in the shade electrifying even his ignorance 
of the truth. 

"Gold?" 

She told him then, breaking her own promise mag 
nificently, as a woman will. 

"Go, ride with Bridger," she went on. "Don t tell 
him you ever knew me. He ll not be apt to speak of 
me. But they found it, in California, the middle of 
last winter gold ! Gold ! Carson s here in our camp 
* Kit Carson. He s the first man to bring it to the 
valley of the Platte. He was sworn to keep it secret; 
so was Bridger, and so am I. Not to Oregon, Will 
California! You can live down your past. If we die, 
God bless the man I do love. That s you, Will ! And 
I m going to marry him. Ten days! On the trail! 
And he ll kill you, Will! Oh, keep away!" 

She paused, breathless from her torrent of inco 
herent words, jealous of the passing moments. It was 
vague, it was desperate, it was crude. But they were in 
a world vague, desperate and crude. 

"I ve promised my men I d not leave them," he said 
at last. "A promise is a promise." 

"Then God help us both ! But one thing when I m 
married, that s the end between us. So good-by." 

He leaned his head back on his saddle for a time, 
his tired horse turning back its head. He put out his 

206 



TWO WHO LOVED 

hand blindly; but it was the muzzle of his horse that 
had touched his shoulder. The girl was gone. 

The Indian drums at Laramie thudded through the 
dark. The great wolf in the breaks lifted his hoarse, 
raucous roar once more. The wilderness was afoot 
or bedding down, according to its like. 



CHAPTER XXVIII 

WHEN A MAID MARRIES 

CARSON, Bridger and Jackson, now reunited 
after years, must pour additional libations 
to Auld Lang Syne at Laramie, so soon were 
off together. The movers sat around their thrifty cook 
ing fires outside the wagon corral. Wingate and his 
wife were talking heatedly, she in her nervousness not 
knowing that she fumbled over and over in her fingers 
the heavy bit of rock which Molly had picked up and 
which was in her handkerchief when it was requi 
sitioned by her mother to bathe her face just now. 
After a time she tossed the nugget aside into the grass. 
It was trodden by a hundred feet ere long. 

But gold will not die. In three weeks a prowling 
Gros Ventre squaw found it and carried it to the 
trader*, Bordeaux, asking, "Shoog?" 

"Non, non!" replied the Laramie trader. "Pas de 
shoog!" But he looked curiously at the thing, so 
heavy. 

"How, cola!" wheedled the squaw. "Shoog!" She 
made the sign for sugar, her finger from her palm to 
her lips. Bordeaux tossed the thing into the tin can 

208 



WHEN A MAID MARRIES 

on the shelf and gave her what sugar would cover a 
spoon. 

Where?" He asked her, his fingers loosely shaken, 
meaning, "Where did you get it?" 

The Gros Ventre lied to him like a lady, and told 
him, on the South Fork, on the Creek of Bitter Cher 
ries near where Denver now is; and where placers 
once were. That was hundreds of miles away. The 
Gros Ventre woman had been there once in her wan 
derings and had seen some heavy metal. 

Years later, after Fort Laramie was taken over by 
the Government, Bordeaux as sutler sold much flour 
and bacon to men hurrying down the South Fork to 
the early Colorado diggings. Meantime in his cups 
he often had told the mythical tale of the Gros Ventre 
woman long after California, Idaho, Nevada, Mon 
tana were all afire. But one of his half breed children 
very presently had commandeered the tin cup and its 
contents, so that to this day no man knows whether 
the child swallowed the nugget or threw it into the 
Laramie River or the Platte River or the sagebrush. 
Some depose that an emigrant bought it of the baby; 
but no one knows. 

What all men do know is that gold does not die; 
nay, nor the news of it. And this news now, like a 
multiplying germ, was in the wagon train that had 
started out for Oregon. 

As for Molly, she asked no questions at all about 
the lost nugget, but hurried to her own bed, supper- 

209 



THE COVERED WAGON 

less, pale and weeping. She told her father nothing 
of the nature of her meeting with Will Banion, then 
nor at any time for many weeks. 

"Molly, come here, I want to talk to you." 

Wingate beckoned to his daughter the second morn 
ing after Banion s visit. 

The order for the advance was given. The men 
had brought in the cattle and the yoking up was well 
forward. The rattle of pots and pans was dying down. 
Dogs had taken their places on flank or at the wagon 
rear, women were climbing up to the seats, children 
dinging to pieces of dried meat. The train was wait 
ing for the word. 

The girl followed him calmly, high-headed. 

"Molly, see here," he began. "We re all ready to 
move on. I don t know where Will Banion went, but 
I want you to know, as I told him, that he can t travel 
in our train." 

"He ll not ask to, father. He s promised to stick 
to his own men." 

"He s left you at last ! That s good. Now I want 
you to drop him from your thoughts. Hear that, and 
heed it. I tell you once more, you re not treating 
Sam Woodhull right." 

She made him no answer. 

"You re still young, Molly," he went on. "Once 
you re settled you ll find Oregon all right. Time you 
were marrying. You ll be twenty and an old maid 

210 



WHEN A MAID MARRIES 

first thing you know. Sam will make you a good 
husband. Heed what I say." 

But she did not heed, though she made no reply to 
him. Her eye, "scornful, threatening and young," 
looked yonder where she knew her lover was; nor 
was it in her soul ever to return from following after 
him. The name of her intended husband left her cold 
as ice. 

"Roll out! Roll out! Ro-o-o-11 ou-t!" 

The call went down the line once more. The pistolry 
of the wagon whips made answer, the drone of the 
drivers rose as the sore-necked oxen bowed their heads 
again, with less strength even for the lightened loads. 

The old man who sat by the gate at Fort Laramie, 
twisting a curl around his finger, saw the plain clear 
ing now, as the great train swung out and up the river 
trail. He perhaps knew that Jim Bridger, with his 
own freight wagons, going light and fast with mules, 
was on west, ahead of the main caravan. But he did 
not know the news Jim Bridger carried, the same news 
that Carson was carrying east. The three old moun 
tain men, for a few hours meeting after years, now 
were passing far apart, never to meet again. Their 
chance encountering meant much to hundreds of men 
and women then on the road to Oregon; to untold 
thousands yet to come. 

As for one Samuel Woodhull, late column captain, 
it was to be admitted that for some time he had been 
conscious of certain bufferings of fate. But as all 

211 



THE COVERED WAGON 

thoroughbred animals are thin-skinned, so are all the 
short-bred pachydermatous, whereby they endure and 
mayhap arrive at the manger well as the next. True, 
even Woodhull s vanity and self -content had every 
thing asked of them in view of his late series of mis 
haps; but by now he had somewhat chirked up under 
rest and good food, and was once more the dandy and 
hail fellow. He felt assured that very presently by 
gones would be bygones. Moreover so he reasoned 
if he, Sam Woodhull, won the spoils, what matter 
who had won any sort of victory? He knew, as all 
these others knew and as all the world knows, that a 
beautiful woman is above all things spolia opima of 
war. Well, in ten days he was to marry Molly Win- 
gate, the most beautiful woman of the train and the 
belle of more than one community. Could he not 
afford to laugh best, in spite of all events, even if some 
of them had not been to his own liking? 

But the girl s open indifference was least of all to 
his liking. It enraged his vain, choleric nature to its 
inner core. Already he planned dominance ; but willing 
to wait and to endure for ten days, meantime he 
employed innocence, reticence, dignity, attentiveness, 
so that he seemed a suitor misunderstood, misrepre 
sented, unjustly used to whose patient soul none the 
less presently must arrive justice and exoneration, 
after which all would be happier even than a marriage 
bell. After the wedding bells he, Samuel Woodhull, 
would show who was master. 

212 



WHEN A MAID MARRIES 

Possessed once more of horse, arms and personal 
equipment, and having told his own story of persecu 
tion to good effect throughout the train, Woodhull 
had been allowed to resume a nominal command over 
a part of the Wingate wagons. The real control lay 
in the triumvirate who once had usurped power, and 
who might do so again. 

Wingate himself really had not much more than 
nominal control of the general company, although he 
continued to give what Caleb Price called the easy 
orders. His wagons, now largely changed to ox trans 
port, still traveled at the head of the train, Molly con 
tinuing to drive her own light wagon and Jed remain 
ing on the cow column. 

The advance hardly had left Fort Laramie hidden 
by the rolling ridges before Woodhull rode up to 
Molly s wagon and made excuse to pass his horse to 
a boy while he himself climbed up on the seat with 
his fiancee. 

She made room for him in silence, her eyes straight 
ahead. The wagon cover made good screen behind, 
the herdsmen were far in the rear, and from the 
wagons ahead none could see them. Yet when, after 
a moment, her affianced husband dropped an arm about 
her waist the girl flung it off impatiently. 

"Don t!" she exclaimed. "I detest love-making in 
public. We see enough of it that can t be hid. It s 
getting worse, more open, the farther we get out." 

"The train knows we are to be married at the half- 
213 



THE COVERED WAGON 

way stop, Molly. Then you ll change wagons and 
will not need to drive. * 

"Wait till then." 

"I count the hours. Don t you, dearest?" 

She turned a pallid face to him at last, resentful of 
his endearments. 

"Yes, I do," she said. But he did not know what 
she meant, or why she was so pale. 

"I think we ll settle in Portland," he went on. "The 
travelers stories say that place, at the head of navi 
gation on the Willamette, has as good a chance as 
Oregon City, at the Falls. I ll practice law. The goods 
I am taking out will net us a good sum, I m hoping. 
Oh, you ll see the day when you ll not regret that I 
held you to your promise ! I m not playing this Oregon 
game to lose it." 

"Do you play any game to lose it?" 

"No! Better to have than to explain have not 
that s one of my mottoes." 

"No matter how?" 

"Why do you ask?" 

"I was only wondering." 

"About what?" 

"About men and the differences." 

"My dear, as a school-teacher you have learned to 
use a map, a blackboard. Do you look on us men as 
ponderable, measurable, computable?" 

"A girl ought to if she s going to marry." 

"Well, haven t you?" 

214 



WHEN A MAID MARRIES 

"Have I ?" 

She still was staring straight ahead, cold, making 
no silent call for a lover s arms or arts. Her silence 
was so long that at length even his thick hide was 
pierced. 

"Molly!" he broke out. "Listen to me! Do you 
want the engagement broken? Do you want to be 
rekased?" 

"What would they all think?" 

"Not the question. Answer me!" 

"No, I don t want it broken. I want it over with. 
Isn t that fair?" 

"Is it?" 

"Didn t you say you wanted me on any terms?" 

"Surely!" 

"Don t you now?" 

"Yes, I do, and I m going to have you, too !" 

His eye, covetous, turned to the ripe young beauty 
of the maid beside him. He was willing to pay any 
price. 

"Then it all seems settled." 

"All but one part. You ve never really and actually 
told me you loved me." 

A wry smile. 

"I m planning to do that after I marry you. I sup 
pose that s the tendency of a woman? Of course, it 
can t be true that only one man will do for a woman 
to marry, or one woman for a man? If anything went 
wrong on that basis why, marrying would stop? 

215 



THE COVERED WAGON 

That would be foolish, wouldn t it ? I suppose women 
do adjust? Don t you think so?" 

His face grew hard under this cool reasoning. 

"Am I to understand that you are marrying me as 
a second choice, and so that you can forget some other 
man?" 

"Couldn t you leave a girl a secret if she had one? 
Couldn t you be happier if you did? Couldn t you take 
your chance and see if there s anything under the 
notion about more than one man and more than one 
woman in the world? Love? Why, what is love? 
Something to marry on? They say it passes. They 
tell me that marriage is more adjustable, means more 
interests than love; that the woman who marries with 
her eyes open is apt to be the happiest in the long run. 
Well, then you said you wanted me on any terms. 
Does not that include open eyes?" 

"You re making a hard bargain the hardest a man 
can be obliged to take." 

"It was not of my seeking." 

"You said you loved me at first." 

"No. Only a girl s in love with love at first. I ve 
not really lied to you. I m trying to be honest before 
marriage. Don t fear I ll not be afterward. There s 
much in that, don t you think? Maybe there s some 
thing, too, in a woman s ability to adjust and com 
promise ? I don t know. We ought to be as happy as 
the average married couple, don t you think? None of 
them are happy for so very long, they say. They say 

216 



WHEN A MAID MARRIES 

love doesn t last long. I hope not. One thing, I 
believe marriage is easier to beat than love is." 

"How old are you, really, Molly ?" 

"I am just over nineteen, sir." 

"You are wise for that; you are old." 

"Yes since we started for Oregon." 

He sat in sullen silence for a long time, all the venom 
of his nature gathering, all his savage jealousy. 

"You mean since you met that renegade, traitor and 
thief, Will Banion! Tell me, isn t that it?" 

"Yes, that s true. I m older now. I know more." 

"And you ll marry me without love. You love him 
without marriage? Is that it?" 

"I ll never marry a thief." 

"But you love one?" 

"I thought I loved you." 

"But you do love him, that man !" 

Now at last she turned to him, gazing straight 
through the mist of her tears. 

"Sam, if you really loved me, would you ask that? 
Wouldn t you just try to be so gentle and good that 
there d no longer be any place in my heart for any 
other sort of love, so I d learn to think that our love 
was the only sort in the world? Wouldn t you take 
your chance and make good on it, believing that it must 
be in nature that a woman can love more than one 
man, or love men in more than one way? Isn t mar 
riage broader and with more chance for both? If 
you love me and not just yourself alone, can t you 

217 



THE COVERED WAGON 

take your chance as I am taking mine? And after 
all, doesn t a woman give the odds? If you do love 
me " 

"If I do, then my business is to try to make you 
forget Will Banion." 

"There is no other way you could. He may die. 
I promise you I ll never see him after I m married. 

"And I ll promise you another thing" her strained 
nerves now were speaking truth for her "if by any 
means I ever learn if I ever believe that Major 
Banion is not what I now think him, I ll go on my 
knees to him. I ll know marriage was wrong and 
love was right all the time." 

"Fine, my dear! Much happiness! But unfortu 
nately for Major Banion s passing romance, the offi 
cial records of a military court-martial and a dishon 
orable discharge from the Army are facts which none 
of us can doubt or deny." 

"Yes, that s how it is. So that s why." 

"What do you really mean then, Molly you say, 
that s why?" 

"That s why I m going to marry you, Sam. Nine 
days from to-day, at the Independence Rock, if we are 
alive. And from now till then, and always, I m going 
to be honest, and I m going to pray God to give you 
power to make me forget every other man in all the 

world except my my " But she could not say 

the word "husband." 

"Your husband!" 

218 






WHEN A MAID MARRIES 

He said it for her, and perhaps then reached his 
zenith in approximately unselfish devotion, and in good 
resolves at least. 

The sun shone blinding hot. The white dust rose 
in clouds. The plague of flies increased. The rattle 
and creak of wheel, the monotone of the drivers, the 
cough of dust-afflicted kine made the only sounds for 
a long time. 

"You can t kiss me, Molly?" 

He spoke not in dominance but in diffidence. The 
girl awed him. 

"No, not till after, Sam; and I think I d rather be 

left alone from now till then. After Oh, be good 

to me, Sam ! I m trying to be honest as a woman can. 
If I were not that I d not be worth marrying at all." 

Without suggestion or agreement on his part she 
drew tighter the reins on her mules. He sprang down 
over the wheel. The sun and the dust had their way 
again; the monotony of life, its drab discontent, its 
yearnings and its sense of failure once more resumed 
sway in part or all of the morose caravan. They all 
sought new fortunes, each of these. One day each 
must learn that, travel far as he likes, a man takes him 
self with him for better or for worse. 



CHAPTER XXIX 

THE BROKEN WEDDING 

BANION allowed the main caravan two days 
start before he moved beyond Fort Laramie. 
Every reason bade him to cut entirely apart 
from that portion of the company. He talked with 
every man he knew who had any knowledge of the 
country on ahead, read all he could find, studied such 
maps as then existed, and kept an open ear for advice 
of old-time men who in hard experience had learned 
how to get across a country. 

Two things troubled him : The possibility of grass 
exhaustion near the trail and the menace of the Indi 
ans. Squaw men in from the north and west said that 
the Arapahoes were hunting on the Sweetwater, and 
sure to make trouble ; that the Black feet were planning 
war; that the Bannacks were east of the Pass; that 
even the Crows were far down below their normal 
range and certain to harass the trains. These stories, 
not counting the hostility of the Sioux and Cheyennes 
of the Platte country, made it appear that there was a 
tacit suspense of intertribal hostility, and a general 
and joint uprising against the migrating whites. 

These facts Banion did not hesitate to make plain 
to all his men ; but, descendants of pioneers, with blood 
of the wilderness in their veins, and each tempted by 
adventure as much as by gain, they laughed long and 

220 



THE BROKEN WEDDING 

loud at the thought of danger from all the Indians of 
the Rockies. Had they not beaten the Sioux? Could 
they not in turn humble the pride of any other tribe? 
Had not their fathers worked with rifle lashed to the 
plow beam? Indians? Let them come! 

Founding his own future on this resolute spirit of 
his men, Banion next looked to the order of his own 
personal affairs. He found prices so high at Fort 
Laramie, and the stock of all manner of goods so low, 
that he felt it needless to carry his own trading wagons 
all the way to Oregon, when a profit of 400 per cent 
lay ready not a third of the way across and less the 
further risk and cost He accordingly cut down his 
own stocks to one wagon, and sold off wagons and 
oxen as well, until he found himself possessed of con 
siderably more funds than when he had started out. 

He really cared little for these matters. What need 
had he for a fortune or a future now ? He was poorer 
than any jeans-clad ox driver with a sunbonnet on the 
seat beside him and tow-headed children on the flour 
and bacon sacks, with small belongings beyond the 
plow lashed at the tail gate, the ax leaning in the front 
corner of the box and the rifle swinging in its loops 
at the wagon bows. They were all beginning life 
again. He was done with it. 

The entire caravan now had passed in turn the Prai 
ries and the Plains. In the vestibule of the mountains 
they had arrived in the most splendid out-of-doors 
country the world has ever offered. The climate was 

221 



THE COVERED WAGON 

superb, the scenery was a constant succession of chang 
ing beauties new to the eyes of all. Game was at hand 
in such lavish abundance as none of them had dreamed 
possible. The buffalo ranged always within touch, 
great bands of elk now appeared, antelope always were 
in sight. The streams abounded in noble game fish, 
and the lesser life of the open was threaded across 
continually by the presence of the great predatory ani 
mals the grizzly, the gray wolf, even an occasional 
mountain lion. The guarding of the cattle herds now 
required continual exertion, and if any weak or crip 
pled draft animal fell out its bones were clean within 
the hour. The feeling of the wilderness now was 
distinct enough for the most adventurous. They fed 
fat, and daily grew more like savages in look and 
practice. 

Wingate s wagons kept well apace with the average 
schedule of a dozen miles a day, at times spurting to 
fifteen or twenty miles, and made the leap over the 
heights of land between the North Platte and the 
Sweetwater, which latter stream, often winding among 
defiles as well as pleasant meadows, was to lead them 
to the summit of the Rockies at the South Pass, beyond 
which they set foot on the soil of Oregon, reaching 
thence to the Pacific. Before them now lay the entry 
mark of the Sweetwater Valley, that strange oblong 
upthrust of rock, rising high above the surrounding 
plain, known for two thousand miles as Independence 
Rock. 

222 



THE BROKEN WEDDING 

At this point, more than eight hundred miles out 
from the Missouri, a custom of unknown age seemed 
to have decreed a pause. The great rock was an unmis- 
takable landmark, and time out of mind had been a 
register of the wilderness. It carried hundreds of 
names, including every prominent one ever known in 
the days of fur trade or the new day of the wagon 
trains. It became known as a resting place; indeed, 
many rested there forever, and never saw the soil of 
Oregon. Many an emigrant woman, sick well-nigh to 
death, held out so that she might be buried among the 
many other graves that clustered there. So, she felt, 
she had the final company of her kind. And to those 
weak or faint of heart the news that this was not half 
way across often smote with despair and death, and 
they, too, laid themselves down here by the road to 
Oregon. 

But here also were many scenes of cheer. By this 
time the new life of the trail had been taken on, rude 
and simple. Frolics were promised when the wagons 
should reach the Rock. Neighbors made reunions 
there. Weddings, as well as burials, were postponed 
till the train got to Independence Rock. 

Here then, a sad-faced girl, true to her promise 
and true to some strange philosophy of her own devis- 
ing, was to become the wife of a suitor whose per 
sistency had brought him little comfort beyond the 
wedding date. All the train knew that Molly Wingate 
was to be married there to Sam Woodhull, now re- 

223 



THE COVERED WAGON 

stored to trust and authority. Some said it was a good 
match, others shook their heads, liking well to see a 
maid either blush or smile in such case as Molly s, 
whereas she did neither. 

At all events, Mrs. Wingate was two days baking 
cakes at the train stops. Friends got together little 
presents for the bride. Jed, Molly s brother, himself a 
fiddler of parts, organized an orchestra of a dozen 
pieces. The Rev. Henry Doak, a Baptist divine of 
much nuptial diligence en route, made ready his best 
coat. They came into camp. In the open spaces of 
the valley hundreds of wagons were scattered, each to 
send representatives to Molly Wingate s wedding. 
Some insisted that the ceremony should be performed 
on the top of the Rock itself, so that no touch of 
romance should lack. 

Then approached the very hour ten of the night, 
after duties of the day were done. A canopy was 
spread for the ceremony. A central camp fire set the 
place for the wedding feast. Within a half hour the 
bride would emerge from the secrecy of her wagon to 
meet at the canopy under the Rock the impatient 
groom, already clad in his best, already giving largess 
to the riotous musicians, who now attuned instruments, 
now broke out into rude jests or pertinent song. 

But Molly Wingate did not appear, nor her father, 
nor her mother. A hush fell on the rude assemblage. 
The minister of the gospel departed to the Wingate 
encampment to learn the cause of the delay. He found 

224 



THE BROKEN WEDDING 

Jesse Wingate irate to open wrath, the girl s mother 
stony calm, the girl herself white but resolute. 

"She insists on seeing the marriage license, Mr. 
Doak," began Jesse Wingate. "As though we could 
have one! As though she should care more for that 
than her parents !" 

"Quite so/ rejoined the reverend man. "That is 
something I have taken up with the happy groom. I 
have with all the couples I have joined in wedlock on 
the trail. Of course, being a lawyer, Mr. Woodhull 
knows that even if they stood before the meeting and 
acknowledged themselves man and wife it would be a 
lawful marriage before God and man. Of course, 
also we all know that since we left the Missouri River 
\ve have been in unorganized territory, with no courts 
and no form of government, no society as we under 
stand it at home. Very well. Shall loving hearts be 
kept asunder for those reasons? Shall the natural 
course of life be thwarted until we get to Oregon? 
Why, sir, that is absurd ! We do not even know much 
of the government of Oregon itself, except that it is 
provisional." 

The face of Molly Wingate appeared at the drawn 
curtains of her transient home. She stepped from her 
wagon and came forward. Beautiful, but not radiant, 
she was ; cold and calm, but not blushing and uncertain. 
Her wedding gown was all in white, true enough to 
tradition, though but of delaine, pressed new from its 
packing trunk by her mother s hands. Her bodice, 

225 



THE COVERED WAGON 

long and deep in front and at back, was plain entirely, 
save for a treasure of lace from her mother s trunk 
and her mother s wedding long ago. Her hands had 
no gloves, but white short-fingered mitts, also cher 
ished remnants of days of schoolgirl belledom, did 
service. Over white stockings, below the long and 
full-bodied skirt, showed the crossed bands of long 
elastic tapes tied in an ankle bow to hold in place her 
little slippers of black high-finished leather. Had they 
seen her, all had said that Molly Wingate was the 
sweetest and the most richly clad bride of any on all 
the long, long trail across the land that had no law. 
And all she lacked for her wedding costume was the 
bride s bouquet, which her mother now held out to 
her, gathered with care that day of the mountain flow 
ers blue harebells, forget-me-nots of varied blues and 
the blossom of the gentian, bold and blue in the sun 
light, though at night infolded and abashed, its petals 
turning in and waiting for the sun again to warm 
them. 

Molly Wingate, stout and stern, full bosomed, wet 
eyed, held out her one little present to her girl, her ewe 
lamb, whom she was now surrendering. But no hand 
of the bride was extended for the bride s bouquet. 
The voice of the bride was not low and diffident, but 
high pitched, insistent. 

"Provisional? Provisional? What is it you are 
saying, sir? Are you asking me to be married in a 

226 



THE BROKEN WEDDING 

provisional wedding? Am I to give all I have provis 
ionally? Is my oath provisional, or his?" 

"Now, now, my dear!" began the minister. 

Her father broke out into a half -stifled oath. 

"What do you mean?" 

Her mother s face went pale under its red bronze. 

"I mean this," broke out the girl, still in the strained 
high tones that betokened her mental state : "I ll marry 
no man in any halfway fashion! Why didn t you tell 
me? Why didn t I think? How could I have forgot 
ten? Law, organization, society, convention, form, 
custom haven t I got even those things to back me? 
No? Then I ve nothing ! It was it was those things 
form, custom that I was going to have to support 
me. I ve got nothing else. Gone they re gone, too! 
And you ask me to marry him provisionally pro 
visionally! Oh, my God! what awful thing was this? 
I wasn t even to have that solid thing to rest on, back 
of me, after it all was over!" 

They stood looking at her for a time, trying to catch 
and weigh her real intent, to estimate what it might 
mean as to her actions. 

"Like images, you are!" she went on hysterically, 
her physical craving for one man, her physical loath 
ing of another, driving her well-nigh mad. "You 
wouldn t protect your own daughter!" to her stupe 
fied parents. "Must I think for you at this hour of my 
life? How near oh, how near! But not now not 
this way! No! No!" 

227 



THE COVERED WAGON 

"What do you mean, Molly?" demanded her father 
sternly. "Come now, we ll have no woman tantrums 
at this stage ! This goes on ! They re waiting ! He s 
waiting !" 

"Let him wait !" cried the girl in sudden resolution. 
All her soul was in the cry, all her outraged, self- 
punished heart. Her philosophy fell from her swiftly 
at the crucial moment when she was to face the kiss, 
the embrace of another man. The great inarticulate 
voice of her woman nature suddenly sounded, impera 
tive, terrifying, in her own ears "Oh, Will Banion, 
Will Banion, why did you take away my heart?" And 
now she had been on the point of doing this thing ! An 
act of God had intervened. 

Jesse Wingate nodded to the minister. They drew 
apart. The holy man nodded assent, hurried away 
the girl sensed on what errand. 

"No use!" she said. "I ll not!" 

Stronger and stronger in her soul surged the yearn 
ing for the dominance of one man, not this man yonder 
a yearning too strong now for her to resist. 

"But Molly, daughter," her mother s voice said to 
her, "girls has girls does. And like he said, it s the 
promise, it s the agreement they both make, with wit 
nesses." 

"Yes, of course," her father chimed in. "It s the 
consent in the contract when you stand before them 
all" 

228 



THE BROKEN WEDDING 

"111 not stand before them. I don t consent ! There 
is no agreement!" 

Suddenly the girl reached out and caught from her 
mother the pitiful little bride s bouquet. 

"Look!" she laughed. "Look at these!" 

One by one, rapidly, she tore out and flung down 
the folded gentian flowers. 

"Closed, closed ! When the night came, they closed ! 
They couldn t ! They couldn t ! I ll not I can t !" 

She had the hand s clasp of mountain blossoms 
stripped down to a few small flowers of varied blooms. 
They heard the coming of the groom, half running. A 
silence fell over all the great encampment. The girl s 
father made a half step forward, even as her mother 
sank down, cowering, her hands at her face. 

Then, without a word, with no plan or purpose, 
Molly Wingate turned, sprang away from them and 
fled out into a night that was black indeed. 

Truly she had but one thought, and that in negation 
only. Yonder came to claim her a man suddenly odious 
to her senses. It could not be. His kiss, his arms if 
these were of this present time and place, then no place 
in all the world, even the world of savage blackness 
that lay about, could be so bad as this. At the test 
her philosophy had forsaken her, reason now almost as 
well, and sheer terrified flight remained her one 
reaction. 

She was gone, a white ghost in her wedding gown, 
her little slippers stumbling over the stones, her breath 

229 



THE COVERED WAGON 

coming sobbingly as she ran. They followed her. 
Back of them, at the great fire whose illumination deep-* 
ened the shadows here, rose a murmur, a rising of 
curious people, a pressing forward to the Wingate 
station. But of these none knew the truth, and it was 
curiosity that now sought answer for the delay in the 
anticipated divertisement. 

Molly Wingate ran for some moments, to some 
distance she knew of neither. Then suddenly all her 
ghastly nightmare of terror found climax in a world of 
demons. Voices of the damned rose around her. 
There came a sudden shock, a blow. Before she could 
understand, before she could determine the shadowy 
form that rose before her in the dark, she fell forward 
like the stricken creature. 



CHAPTER XXX 

THE DANCE IN THE DESERT 

THERE was no wedding that night at the 
Independence Rock. The Arapahoes saw to 
that. But there were burials the day follow 
ing, six of them two women, a child, three men. The 
night attack had caught the company wholly off guard, 
and the bright fire gave good illumination for shaft 
and ball. 

"Put out the fires ! Corral ! Corral !" 

Voices of command arose. The wedding guests 
rushed for the shelter of their own wagons. Men 
caught up their weapons and a steady fire at the unseen 
foe held the latter at bay after the first attack. 

Indeed, a sort of panic seized the savages. A war 
rior ran back exclaiming that he had seen a spirit, all 
in white, not running away from the attack, but toward 
them as they lay in cover. He had shot an arrow at 
the spirit, which then had vanished. It would be 
better to fall back and take no more like chances. 

For this reason the family of Molly Wingate, pur 
suing her closely as they could, found her at last, lying 
face down in the grass, her arms outspread, her white 
wedding gown red with blood. An arrow, its shaft 

231 



THE COVERED WAGON 

cracked by her fall, was imbedded in her shoulder, 
driven deep by the savage bowman who had fired in 
fear at an object he did not recognize. So they found 
her, still alive, still unmutilated, still no prisoner. They 
carried the girl back to her mother, who reached out 
her arms and laid her child down behind the barricaded 
wagon wheels. 

"Bring me a candle, you !" she called to the nearest 
man. It chanced to be Sam Woodhull. 

Soon a woman came with a light. 

"Go away now!" the mother commanded the dis 
appointed man. 

He passed into the dark. The old woman opened 
the bodice over the girl s heart, stripped away the 
stained lace that had served in three weddings on two 
sides of the Appalachians, and so got to the wound. 

"It s in to the bone," she said. "It won t come out. 
Get me my scissors out of my bag. It s hanging right 
side the seat, our wagon." 

"Ain t there no doctor?" she demanded, her own 
heart weakening now. But none could tell. A few 
women grouped around her. 

"It won t come out of that little hole it went in," 
said stout Molly Wingate, not quite sobbing. "I got 
to cut it wider." 

Silence held them as she finished the shreds of the 
ashen shaft and pressed to one side the stub of it. So 
with what tools she knew best she cut into the fabric 
of her own weaving, out of her own blood and bone; 

232 



THE DANCE IN THE DESERT 

cut mayhap in steady snippings at her own heart, puli 
ng and wrenching until the flesh, now growing purple, 
was raised above the girl s white breast. Both arms, 
n their white sleeves, lay on the trodden grass motion- 
ess, and had not shock and strain left the victim uncon 
scious the pain must now have done so. 

The sinew wrappings held the strap-iron head, wetted 
as they now were with blood. The sighing surgeon 
aught the base of the arrowhead in thumb and finger. 
There was no stanching of the blood. She wrenched it 
ree at last, and the blood gushed from a jagged hole 
vhich would have meant death in any other air or in any 
jatient but the vital young. 

Now they disrobed the bride that was no bride, 
even as the rifle fire died away in the darkness. Women 
)rought frontier drafts of herbs held sovereign, and 
aid her upon the couch that was not to have been hers 
alone. 

She opened her eyes, moaning, held out her arms to 
icr mother, not to any husband; and her mother, 
bloody, unnerved, weeping, caught her to her bosom. 

"My lamb! My little lamb! Oh, dear me I Oh, 
dear me!" 

The wailing of others for their dead arose. Thfc 
camp dogs kept up a continual barking, but there was 
no other sound. The guards now lay out in the dark. 
A figure came creeping toward the bridal tent. 

"Is she alive? May I come in? Speak to me, Molly!" 
233 



THE COVERED WAGON 

"Go on away, Sam !" answered the voice of the older 
woman. "You can t come in." 

"But is she alive? Tell me 1" His voice was at the 
door which he could not pass. 

"Yes, more s the pity !" he heard the same voice say. 

But from the girl who should then have been his, to 
have and to hold, he heard no sound at all, nor could 
he know her frightened gaze into her mother s face, 
her tight clutch on her mother s hand. 

This was no place for delay. They made graves for 
the dead, pallets for the wounded. At sunrise the train 
moved on, grim, grave, dignified and silent in its very 
suffering. There was no time for reprisal or revenge. 
The one idea as to safety was to move forward in hope 
of shaking off pursuit 

But all that morning and all that day the mounted 
Arapahoes harassed them. At many bends of the 
Sweetwater they paused and made sorties ; but the sav 
ages fell back, later to close in, sometimes under cover 
so near that their tauntings could be heard. 

Wingate, Woodhull, Price, Hall, Kelsey stationed 
themselves along the line of flankers, and as the country 
became flatter and more open they had better control 
of the pursuers, so that by nightfall the latter began 
to fall back. 

The end of the second day of forced marching found 
them at the Three Crossings of the Sweetwater, deep 
in a cheerless alkaline desert, and on one of the most 
depressing reaches of the entire journey. That night 

234 



THE DANCE IN THE DESERT 

such gloom fell on their council as had not yet been 
known. 

"The Watkins boy died to-day," said Hall, joining 
his colleagues at the guarded fire. "His leg was black 
where it was broke. They re going to bury him just 
ahead, in the trail. It s not best to leave headboards 
here." 

Wingate had fallen into a sort of apathy. For a time 
JVoodhull did not speak to him after he also came in. 

"How is she, Mr. Wingate?" he asked at last. "She ll 
live?" 

"I don t know," replied the other. "Fever. No one 
can tell. We found a doctor in one of the Iowa wagons. 
He don t know." 

Woodhull sat silent for a time, exclaimed at last, 
"But she will she must! This shames me! We ll be 
married yet." 

"Better wait to see if she lives or dies," said Jesse 
Wingate succinctly. 

"I know what I wish," said Caleb Price at last as 
he stared moodily at the coals, "and I know it mighty 
>vell I wish the other wagons were up. Yes, and " 

He did not finish. A nod or so was all the answer he 
got. A general apprehension held them all. 

"If Bridger hadn t gone on ahead, damn him!" ex 
claimed Kelsey at last. 

"Or if Carson hadn t refused to come along, instead 
of going on east," assented Hall. "What made him so 
keen?" 

235 



THE COVERED WAGON 

Kelsey spoke morosely. 

"Said he had papers to get through. Maybe Kit 
Carson ll sometime carry news of our being wiped 
out somewhere." 

"Or if we had Bill Jackson to trail for us," ven 
tured the first speaker again. "If we could send back 
word " 

"We can t, so what s the use?" interrupted Price. 
"We were all together, and had our chance once." 

But buried as they were in their gloomy doubts, re 
grets, fears, they got through that night and the next 
in safety. They dared not hunt, though the buffalo and 
antelope were in swarms, and though they knew they 
now were near the western limit of the buffalo range. 
They urged on, mile after mile. The sick and the 
wounded must endure as they might. 

Finally they topped the gentle incline which marked 
the heights of land between the Sweetwater and the 
tributaries of the Green, and knew they had reached 
the South Pass, called halfway to Oregon. There was 
no timber here. The pass itself was no winding canon, 
but only a flat, broad valley. Bolder: views they had 
seen, but none of greater interest. 

Now they would set foot on Oregon, passing from 
one great series of waterways to another and even 
vaster, leading down to the western sea the unknown 
South Sea marked as the limits of their possessions by 
the gallants of King Charles when, generations earlier, 
and careless of all these intervening generations of toil 

236 



THE DANCE IN THE DESERT 

and danger, they had paused at the summit of Rockfish 
Gap in the Appalachians and waved a gay hand each 
toward the unknown continent that lay they knew not 
how far to the westward. 

But these, now arrived halfway of half that conti 
nent, made no merriment in their turn. Their wounded 
and their sick were with them. The blazing sun tried 
them sore. Before them also lay they knew not what. 

And now, coming in from the northeast in a vast 
braided tracing of travois poles and trampling hoofs, 
lay a trail which fear told them was that of yet another 
war party waiting for the white-topped wagons. It 
led on across the Pass. It could not be more than two 
days old 

"It s the Crows f" exclaimed Sam Woodhull, study 
ing the broad trail. "They ve got their women and 
children with them/ 

"We have ours with us," said Caleb Price simply. 

Every man who heard him looked back at the lines 
of gaunt cattle, at the dust-stained canvas coverings 
that housed their families. They were far afield from 
home or safety. 

"Call Wingate. Let s decide what to do," exclaimed 
Price again. "We ll have to vote." 

They voted to go on, fault of any better plan. Some 
said Bridger s post was not far ahead. A general impa 
tience, fretful, querulous, manifested itself. Ignorant, 
many of these wanted to hurry on to Oregon, which 
for most meant the Williamette Valley, in touch with 

237 



THE COVERED WAGON 

the sea, marked as the usual end of the great trek. Few 
knew that they now stood on the soil of the Oregon 
country. The maps and journals of Molly Wingate 
were no more forthcoming, for Molly Wingate no more 
taught the evening school, but lay delirious under the 
hothouse canvas cover that intensified the rays of the 
blazing sun. It was life or death, but by now life-and- 
death issue had become no unusual experience. 

It was August, midsummer, and only half the jour 
ney done. The heat was blinding, blistering. For days 
now, in the dry sage country, from the ford of the 
North Fork of the Platte, along the Sweetwater and 
down the Sandy, the white alkali dust had sifted in 
and over everything. Lips cracked open, hands and 
arms either were raw or black with tan. The wagons 
were ready to drop apart. A dull silence had fallen on 
the people; but fatuously following the great Indian 
trail they made camp at last at the ford of the Green 
River, the third day s march down the Pacific Slope. 
No three days of all the slow trail had been harder to 
endure than these. 

"Play for them, Jed," counseled Caleb Price, when 
that hardy youth, leaving his shrunken herd, came in 
for his lunch that day at the ford. 

"Yes, but keep that fiddle in the shade, Jed, or the 
sun certainly will pop it open." 

Jed s mother, her apron full of broken bits of sage 
brush, turned to see that her admonishment was heeded 
before she began her midday coffee fire. As for Jed 

238 



THE DANCE IN THE DESERT 

himself, with a wide grin he crouched down at the side 
of the wagon and leaned against a wheel as he struck 
up a lively air, roaring joyously to his accompaniment : 

Git out o the way, old Dan Tucker, 
You 9 re too late to git yore supper! 

Unmindful of the sullen apathy of men and women, 
the wailing of children stifling under the wagon tops, 
the moans of the sick and wounded in their ghastly dis 
comfort, Jed sang with his cracked lips as he swung 
from one jig to the next, the voice of the violin reaching 
all the wagons of the shortened train. 

"Choose yore pardners !" rang his voice in the joyous 
jesting of youth. And marvel and miracle then and 
there, those lean brown folk did take up the jest, and 
laughingly gathered on the sun-seared sands. They 
formed sets and danced danced a dance of the indom 
itable, at high noon, the heat blinding, the sand hot 
under feet not all of which were shod. Molly Wingate, 
herself fifty and full-bodied, cast down her firewood, 
caught up her skirt with either hand and made good an 
old-time jig to the tune of the violin and the roaring 
accompaniment of many voices and of patted hands. 
She paused at length, dropping her calico from between 
her fingers, and hastened to a certain wagon side as she 
wiped her face with her apron. 

"Didn t you hear it, Molly?" she demanded, parting 
the curtain and looking in. 

"Yes, I did. I wanted I almost wanted to join. 
239 



THE COVERED WAGON 

Mother, I almost wanted to hope again. Am I to live ? 
Where are we now ?" 

"By a right pretty river, child, and eena most to 
Oregon, Come, kiss your mother, Molly. Let s try." 

Whereupon, having issued her orders and set every 
one to work at something after her practical fashion, 
the first lady of the train went frizzling her shaved 
buffalo meat with milk in the frying pan; grumbling 
that milk now was almost at the vanishing point, and 
that now they wouldn t see another buffalo ; but always 
getting forward with her meal. This she at last amiably 
announced. 

"Well, come an git it, people, or I ll throw it to the 
dogs." 

Flat on the sand, on blankets or odds and ends of 
hide, the emigrants sat and ate, with the thermometer 
had they had one perhaps a hundred and ten in the 
sun. The men were silent for the most part, with now 
and then a word about the ford, which they thought 
it would be wise to make a t once, before the river per 
chance might rise, and while it still would not swim 
the cattle. 

"We can t wait for anyone, not even the Crows," 
said Wingate, rising and ending the mealtime talk. 
"Let s get across." 

Methodically they began the blocking up of the 
wagon bodies to the measurement established by a wet 
pole, 

240 



THE DANCE IN THE DESERT 

Thank the Lord," said Wingate, "they ll just clear 
now if the bottom is hard all the way." 

One by one the teams were urged into the ticklish 
crossing. The line of wagons was almost all at the 
farther side when all at once the rear guard came back, 
spurring. 

"Corral! Corral I" he called. 

He plunged into the stream as the last driver urged 
his wagon up the bank. A rapid dust cloud was ap 
proaching down the valley. 

"Indians!" called out a dozen voices. "Corral, men! 
For God s sake, quick corral !" 

They had not much time or means to make defense, 
but with training now become second nature they circled 
and threw the dusty caravan into the wonted barricade, 
tongue to tail gate. The oxen could not all be driven 
within, the loose stock was scattered, the horses were 
not on picket lines at that thrfe of day; but driving 
what stock they could, the boy herders came in at a run 
when the)- saw the wagons parking. 

There was no time to spare. The dust cloud swept 
on rapidly. It could not spell peace, for no men would 
urge their horses at such pace under such a sun save 
for one purpose to overtake this party at the ford. 

"It s Bill Jackson!" exclaimed Caleb Price, rifle in 
hand, at the river s edge. "Look out, men! Don t 
shoot! Wait! There s fifty Indians back of him, but 
that s Jackson ahead. Now what s wrong?" 

The riddle was not solved even when the scout of 
241 



THE COVERED WAGON 

the Missouri train, crowded ahead by the steady rush 
of the shouting and laughing savages, raised his voice 
as though in warning and shouted some word, unintek 
ligible, which made them hold their fire. 

The wild cavalcade dashed into the stream, crowding 
their prisoner he was no less before them, bent bows 
back of him, guns ready. 

They were stalwart, naked men, wide of jaw, great 
of chest, not a woman or child among them, all painted 
and full armed. 

"My God, men!" called Wingate, hastening under 
cover. "Don t let them in! Don t let them in! It s 
the Crows !" 



CHAPTER XXXI 
HOW, COLA! 

"y irOW, cola!" exclaimed the leader of the band 

I 1 of Indians, crowding up to the gap in the 

-- -*- corral where a part of the stock had just 
been driven in. He grinned maliciously and made the 
sign for "Sioux" the edge of the hand across the 
throat. 

But men, rifles crosswise, barred him back, while 
others were hurrying, strengthening the barricade. A 
half dozen rifles, thrust out through wheels or leveled 
across wagon togues, now covered the front rank of 
the Crows ; but the savages, some forty or fifty in num 
ber, only sat their horses laughing. This was sport to 
them. They had no doubt at all that they would have 
their will of this party of the whites as soon as they 
got ready, and they planned further strategy. To drive 
a prisoner into camp before killing him was humorous 
from their point of view, and practical withal, like driv 
ing a buffalo close to the village before shooting it. 

But the white men were not deceived by the trading- 
post salutation. 

"He s a liar!" called out the voice of Jackson. 
"They re not Sioux they re Crows, an out for war! 

*43 



THE COVERED WAGON 

Don t let em in, boys ! For God s sake, keep em out !" 
It was a brave man s deed. The wonder was his 
words were not his last, for though the Crows did not 
understand all his speech, they knew well enough what 
he meant. One brave near him struck him across the 
mouth with the heavy wooden stock of his Indian whip, 
so that his lips gushed blood. A half dozen arrows 
turned toward him, trembling on the strings. But the 
voice of their partisan rose in command. He preferred 
a parley, hoping a chance might offer to get inside the 
wagon ring. The loose stock he counted safe booty 
any time they liked. He did not relish the look of the 
rifle muzzles at a range of twenty feet. The riders were 
now piled in almost against the wheels. 

"Swap!" exclaimed the Crow leader ingratiatingly, 
and held out his hand. "How, cola !" 

"Don t believe him! Don t trust him, men!" 
Again Jackson s voice rose. As the savages drew 
apart from him, to hold him in even better bow range, 
one young brave, hideously barred in vermilion and 
yellow, all the time with an arrow at the prisoner s 
back, the men in the wagon corral now saw that Jack 
son s hands were tied behind his back, so that he was 
helpless. But still he sat his own horse, and still he 
had a chance left to take. 

"Look out!" he called high and clear. "Get away 
from the hole! I m comin in!" 

Before anyone fully caught his meaning he swung 
his horse with his legs, lifted him with his heels and 

244 



- 

HOW, COLA! 

made one straight, desperate plunge for the gap, jos 
tling aside the nearest two or three of his oppressors. 

It was a desperate man s one hope no hope at all, 
indeed, for the odds were fifty to one against him. 
Swift as was his movement, and unprepared as his 
tormentors were for it, just as the horse rose to his 
leap over the wagon tongue, and as the rider flung 
himself low on his neck to escape what he knew would 
come, a bow twanged back of him. They all heard the 
zhut ! of the arrow as it struck. Then, in a stumbling 
heap, horse and rider fell, rolled over, as a sleet of ar 
rows followed through. 

Jackson rolled to one side, rose to his knees. Molly 
Wingate chanced to be near. Her scissors, carefully 
guarded always, because priceless, hung at her neck. 
Swiftly she began to saw at the thong which held Jack 
son s wrists, bedded almost to the bone and twisted with 
a stick. She severed the cord somehow and the man 
staggered up. Then they saw the arrow standing out 
at both sides of his shoulder, driven through the muscles 
with the hasty snap of the painted bowman s shot. 

"Cut it break it!" he demanded of her; for all the 
men now were at the edge, and there was no one else 
to aid. And staunch Molly Wingate, her eyes staring 
again in htfrror, took the bloody stem and tried to break 
it off, in her second case of like surgery that week. But 
the shaft was flexible, tough and would not break. 

"A knife quick! Cut it off above the feather!" 

He himself caught the front of the shaft and pushed 
245 



THE COVERED WAGON 

it back, close to the head. By chance she saw Jed s 
knife at his belt as he kneeled, and drew it. Clumsily 
but steadily she slashed into the shaft, weakened it, 
broke it, pushed the point forward. Jackson himself 
unhesitatingly pulled it through, a gush of blood fol 
lowing on either side the shoulder. There was no time 
to notice that. Crippled as he was, the man only looked 
for weapons. A pistol lay on the ground and he caught 
it up. 

But for the packs and bales that had been thrown 
against the wheels, the inmates of the corral would all 
have fallen under the rain of arrows that now slatted 
and thudded in. But they kept low, and the Indians 
were so close against the wagons that they could not 
see under the bodies or through the wheels. The 
chocks had not yet been taken out from under the 
boxes, so that they stood high. Against such a barri 
cade cavalry was helpless. There was no warrior who 
wanted to follow Jackson s example of getting inside. 

For an instant there came no order to fire. The men 
were reaching into the wagons to unsling their rifles 
from the riding loops fastened to the bows. It all was 
a trample and a tumult and a whirl of dust under 
thudding hoofs outside and in, a phase which could last 
no more than an instant. Came the thin crack of a 
squirrel rifle from the far corner of the wagon park. 
The Crow partisan sat his horse just a moment, the ex 
pression on his face frozen there, his mouth slowly 

246 



HOW, COLA! 

closing. Then he slid off his horse close to the gap, now 
piled high with goods and gear. 

A boy s high quaver rose. 

"You can t say nothing this time ! You didn t shoot 
at all now!" 

An emigrant boy was jeering at his father. 

But by that time no one knew or cared who shot. 
The fight was on. Every rifle was emptied in the next 
instant, and at that range almost every shot was fatal 
or disabling. In sudden panic at the powder flare in 
their faces, the Crows broke and scattered, with no 
time to drag away their wounded. 

The fight, or this phase of it, was over almost before 
it was begun. It all was one more repetition of border 
history. Almost never did the Indians make a success 
ful attack on a trading post, rarely on an emigrant train 
in full corral. The cunning of the Crow partisan in 
driving in a prisoner as a fence had brought him close, 
yes too close. But the line was not yet broken. 

Firing with a steady aim, the emigrants added to the 
toll they took. The Crows bent low and flogged their 
horses. Only in the distant willow thickets did they 
pause. They even left their dead. 

There were no wounded, or not for long. Jackson, 
the pistol in his hand, his face gray with rage and pain, 
stepped outside the corral. The Crow chief, shot 
through the chest, turned over, looked up dully. 

"How, cola !" said his late prisoner, baring his teeth. 

And what he did with this brave he did with all the 
247 



THE COVERED WAGON 

others of the wounded able to move a hand. The debt 
to savage treachery was paid, savagely enough, when 
he turned back to the wagons, and such was the rage 
of all at this last assault that no voice was raised to 
stay his hand. 

"There s nothing like tobacker," asserted Jackson 
coolly when he had reentered the corral and it came to 
the question of caring for his arrow wound. "Jest tie 
on a good chaw o tobacker on each side o that hole 
an* twon t be long afore she s all right. I m glad it 
went plumb through. I ve knowed a arrerhead to pull 
off an* stay in when the sinew wroppin s got loose from 
soakin . 

"Look at them wrists," he added, holding up his 
hands. "They twisted that rawhide clean to the bone, 
damn their skins ! Pertendin to be friends ! They put 
me in front sos t you d let em ride up clost that s 
the Crow way, to come right inter camp if they can, 
git in close an play friends. But, believe me, this 
ain t but the beginnin . They ll be back, an plenty with 
em. Them Crows ain t west of the Pass fer only one 
thing, an that s this wagon train/ 

They gathered around him now, plying him with 
questions. Sam Woodhull was among those who came, 
and him Jackson watched narrowly every moment, his 
own weapon handy, as he now described the events that 
had brought him hither. 

"Our train come inter the Sweetwater two days back 
o you all," he said. "We seed you d had a fight but 

248 



HOW, COLA! 

had went on. We knowed some was hurt, fer we picked 
up some womern fixin s tattin , hit were with blood 
on hit. And we found buryin s, the dirt different color. * 

They told him now of the first fight, of their losses, 
of the wounded; told him of the near escape of Molly 
Wingate, though out of courtesy to Woodhull, who 
stood near, they said nothing of the interrupted wed 
ding. The old mountain man s face grew yet more 
stern. 

"That gal !" he said. "Her shot by a sneakin Rapa- 
hoe? Ain t that a shame! But she s not bad she s 
comin through?" 

Molly Wingate, who stood ready now with bandages, 
told him how alike the two arrow wounds had been. 

"Take an chaw tobacker, ma am," said he. "Put a 
hunk on each side, do-ee mind, an she ll be well." 

"Go on and tell us the rest," someone demanded. 

"Not much to tell that ye couldn t of knew, gentle 
men," resumed the scout. "Ef ye d sont back fer us 
we d of jined ye, shore, but ye didn t send." 

"How could we send, man?" demanded Woodhull 
savagely. "How could we know where you were, or 
whether you d come or whether you d have been of 
any use if you had?" 

"Well, we knew whar you-all was, t any rate," re 
joined Jackson. "We was two days back o ye, then 
one day. Our captain wouldn t let us crowd in, fer he 
said he wasn t welcome an we wasn t needed. 

"That was ontel we struck the big Crow trail, with 
249 



THE COVERED WAGON 

you all a follerin o hit blind, a-chasin trouble as 
hard as ye could. Then he sont me on ahead to warn 
ye an* to ask ef we should jine on. We knowed the 
Crows was down atter the train. 

"I laid down to sleep, I did, under a sagebrush, in 
the sun, like a fool. I was beat out an needed 
sleep, an I thought I was safe fer a leetle while. 
When I woke up it was a whoop that done hit. They 
was around me, laughin , twenty arrers p inted, an 
some shot inter the ground by my face. I taken my 
chance, an shook hands. They grabbed me an tied 
me. Then they made me guide them in, like ye seen. 
They maybe didn t know I come from the east an not 
from the west 

"Their village is on some creek above here. I think 
they re on a visit to the Shoshones. Eight hundred men 
they are, or more. Hit s more n what it was with the 
Sioux on the Platte, fer ye re not so many now. An* 
any time now the main band may come. Git ready, 
men. Fer me, I must git back to my own train. They 
may be back twenty mile, or thirty. Would ary man 
want to ride with me ? Would ye, Sam Woodhull ?" 

The eyes of his associates rested on Woodhull. 

"I think one man would be safer than two," said 
he. "My own place is here if there s sure to be a 
fight." 

"Mebbe so," assented Jackson. "In fack, I don t 
know as more n one d git through if you an me both 
started." His cold gray eye was fixed on Woodhull 

250 



HOW, COLA! 

carelessly. "An ef hit was the wrong man got througH 
he d never lead them Missouri men for rerd to where 
this fight ll be. 

"An hit ll be right here. Look yan!" he added. 

He nodded to the westward, where a great dust cloud 
arose. 

"More is comin ," said he. "Van s Bannack s like 
as not, er even the Shoshones, all I know, though 
they re usual quiet. The runners is out atween all the 
tribes. I must be on my way." 

He hurried to find his own horse, looked to its wel 
fare, for it, too, had an arrow wound. As he passed 
a certain wagon he heard a voice call to him, saw a hand 
at the curtained front. 

"Miss Molly ! Hit s you ! Ye re not dead no ways, 
then?" 

"Come," said the girl. 

He drew near, fell back at sight of her thin face, 
her pallor; but again she commanded him. 

"I know," said she. "He s he s safe?" 

"Yes, Miss Molly, a lot safer n any of us here." 

"You re going back to him ?" 

"Yes. When he knows ye re hurt he ll come. 
Nothin ll stop him, oncet I tell him." 

"Wait!" she whispered. "I heard you talk. Take 
him this." She pushed into his hand a folded paper, 
unsealed, without address. "To him!" she said, and 
fell back on the blankets of her rude pallet. 

At that moment her mother was approaching, and 
251 



THE COVERED WAGON 

at her side walked Woodhull, actuated by his own sus 
picions about Jackson. He saw the transaction of the 
passed note and guessed what he could not know. He 
tapped Jackson on the shoulder, drew him aside, his 
own face pale with anger. 

"I m one of the officers of this train," said he. "I 
want to know what s in that note. We have no truck 
with Banion, and you know that. Give it to me." 

Jackson calmly tucked the paper into the fire bag 
that hung at his belt. 

"Come an take it, Sam, damn ye !" said he. "I don t 
know what s in hit, an won t know. Who it s to ain t 
none o yore damn business !" 

"You re a cursed meddler!" broke out Woodhull. 
"You re a spy in our camp, that s all you are !" 

"So ! Well, cussed meddler er not, I m a cussed shore 
shot. An I advise ye to give over on all this an mind 
yore business. Ye ll have plenty to do by midnight, an 
by that time all yore womern an children, all yore old 
men an all yore cowards ll be prayin fer Banion an* 
his men to come. That there includes you somewhere s, 
Sam. Don t temp me too much ner too long. I ll kill 
ye yit ef ye do ! Git on away !" 

They parted, each with eye over shoulder. Their talk 
had been aside and none had heard it in full. But when 
Woodhull again joined Mrs. Wingate that lady con 
veyed to him Molly s refusal to see him or to set a time 
for seeing him. Bitterly angered, humiliated to the 

252 






HOW, COLA! 

core, he turned back to the men who were completing 
the defenses of the wagon park. 

"I kain t start now afore dark," said Jackson to the 
train command. "They re a-goin to jump the train. 
Wheri they do come they ll surround ye an try to keep 
ye back from the water till the stock goes crazy. Lay 
low an don t let a Injun inside. Hit may be a hull day, 
er more, but when Banion s men come they ll come 
a-runnin allowin I git through to tell em. 

"Dig in a trench all the way aroun ," he added finally. 
"Put the womern an children in hit an pile up all yer 
flour on top. Don t waste no powder let em come 
up clost as they will. Hold on ontel we come." 

At dusk he slipped away, the splash of his horse s 
feet in the ford coming fainter and fainter, even as the 
hearts of some felt fainter as his wise and sturdy coun 
sel left them. Naught to do now but to wait. 

They did wait the women and children, the old, the 
ill and the wounded huddled shivering and crying in 
the scooped-out sand, hardest and coldest of beds; the 
men in line against the barricade, a circle of guards out 
side the wagon park. But midnight passed, and the 
cold hours of dawn, and still no sign came of an attack. 
Men began to believe the dust cloud of yesterday no 
more than a false alarm, and the leaders were of two 
minds, whether to take Jackson s counsel and wait for 
the Missourians, or to hook up and push on as fast as 
possible to Bridger s fort, scarce more than two hard 
days journey on ahead. But before this breakfast- 

253 



THE COVERED WAGON 

hour discussion had gone far erents took the decision 
out of their hands. 

"Look !" cried a voice. "Open the gate !" 

The cattle guards and outposts who had just driven 
the herd to water were now spurring for shelter and 
hurrying on the loose stock ahead of them. And now, 
from the willow growth above them, from the trail 
that led to the ford and from the more open country to 
the westward there came, in three great detachments, 
not a band or a body, but an army of the savage tribes 
men, converging steadily apon the wagon train. 

They came slowly, not in a wild charge, not yelling, 
but chanting. The upper and right-hand bodies were 
Crows. Their faces were painted black, for war and 
for revenge. The band on the left were wild men, on 
active half -broke horses, their weapons for the most 
part bows and arrows. They later found these to be 
Bannacks, belonging anywhere but here, and in any 
alliance rather than with the Crows from east of the 
Pass. 

Nor did the latter belong here to the south and west, 
far off their own great hunting range. Obviously what 
Carson, Bridger, Jackson had said was true. All the 
tribes were in league to stop the great invasion of the 
white nation, who now were bringing their women and 
children and this thing with which they buried the 
buffalo. They meant extermination now. They were 
taking their time and would take their revenge for the 
dead who lay piled before the white man s barricade. 

254 * 



HOW, COLA! 

The emigrants rolled back a pair of wagons, and thq 
cattle were crowded through, almost over the human 
occupants of the oblong. The gap was closed. All the 
remaining cargo packages were piled against the wheels, 
and the noncombatants sheltered in that way. Shovels 
deepened the trench here or there as men sought better 
to protect their families* 

And now in a sudden mette of shouts and yells, o{ 
trampling hoofs and whirling colors, the first bands of 
the Crows came charging up in the attempt to carry 
away their dead of yesterday. Men stooped to grasp a 
stiffened wrist, a leg, a belt ; the ponies squatted under 
ghastly dragging burdens. 

But this brought them within pistol range. The re 
ports of the white men s weapons began, carefully, 
methodically, with deadly accuracy. There was no panic. 
The motionless or the struggling blotches ahead of the 
wagon park grew and grew. A few only of the Crows 
got off with bodies of their friends or relatives. One 
warrior after another dropped. They were used to 
killing buffalo at ten yards. The white rifles killed 
their men now regularly at a hundred. They drew off, 
out of range. 

Meantime the band from the westward was round 
ing up and driving off every animal that had not been 
corralled. The emigrants saw themselves in fair way to 
be set on foot. 

Now the savage strategy became plain. The fight 
was to be a siege. 

255 



THE COVERED WAGON 

"Look !" Again a leader pointed. 

Crouched now, advancing under cover of the shallow 
cut-bank, the headdresses of a score of the Western 
tribesmen could be seen. They sank down. The ford 
was held, the water was cut off! The last covering 
fringe of willows also was held. On every side the 
black-painted savages sat their ponies, out of range. 
There could be no more water or grass for the horses 
and cattle, no wood for the camp. 

There was no other concerted charge for a long time. 
Now and then some painted brave, chanting a death 
song, would ride slowly toward the wagon park, some 
dervish vow actuating him or some bravado impelling 
him. But usually he fell. 

It all became a quiet, steady, matter-of-fact perfor 
mance on both sides. This very freedom from action 
and excitement, so different from the gallant riding of 
the Sioux, was more terrifying than direct attack en 
masse, so that when it came to a matter of shaken 
morale the whites were in as bad case as their foes, 
although thus far they had had no casualty at all. 

There lacked the one leader, cool, calm, skilled, ex 
perienced, although courage did not lack. Yet even the 
best courage suffers when a man hears the wailing of 
his children back of him, the groans of his wife. As 
the hours passed, with no more than an occasional rifle 
shot or the zhut! of an arrow ending its high arc, the 
tension on the nerves of the beleaguered began to 
manifest itself. 

256 



HOW, COLA! 

At midday the children began to cry for water. They 
were appeased with milk from the few cows offering 
tnilk; but how long might that last, with the cattle 
themselves beginning to moan and low? 

"How far are they back?" 

It was Hall, leader of the Ohio wagons. But none 
could tell him where the Missouri train had paused. 
Wingate alone knew why Banion had not advanced. 
He doubted if he would come now. 

"And this all was over the quarrel between two 
men," said Caleb Price to his friend Wingate. 

"The other man is a thief, Cale," reiterated Wingate. 
He was court-martialed and broke, dishonorably dis 
charged from the Army. He was under Colonel Doni- 
phan, and had control of subsistence in upper Mexico 
for some time. He had the regimental funds. Doni- 
phan was irregular. He ran his regiment like a mess, 
and might order first this officer, then that, of the line 
or staff, to take on his free-for-all quartermaster trains. 
But he was honest. Banion was not. He had him 
broken. The charges were filed by Captain Woodhull. 
Well, is it any wonder there is no love lost? And is 
it any wonder I wouldn t train up with a thief, or allow 
him to visit in my family? By God! right now I 
wouldn t ; and I didn t send for him to help us !" 

"So!" said Caleb Price. "So! And that was why 
the wedding " 

"Yes ! A foolish fancy of a girl. I don t know what 
passed between her and Banion. I felt it safer for my 

257 



THE COVERED WAGON 

daughter to be married, as soon as could be, to another 
man, an honest man. You know how that came out. 
And now, when she s as apt to die as live, and we re 
all as apt to, you others send for that renegade to save 
us ! I have no confidence that he will come. I hope he 
will not. I d like his rifles, but I don t want him." 

"Well," said Caleb Price, "it is odd how his rifles 
depend on him and not on the other man. Yet they 
both lived in the same town." 

"Yes, one man may be more plausible than another." 

"Yes? I don t know that I ever saw a man more 
plausible with his fists than Major Banion was. Yes, 
I ll call him plausible. I wish some of us say, Sam 
Woodhull, now could be half as plausible with these 
Crows. Difference in men, Jess!" he concluded. 
"Woodhull was there and now he s here. He s here 
and now we re sending there for the other man." 

"You want that other man, thief and dishonest as 
he is?" 

"By God ! yes ! I want his rifles and him too. Wo 
men, children and all, the whole of us, will die if that 
thief doesn t come inside of another twenty-four 
hours." 

Wingate flung out his arms, walked away, hands 
clasped behind his back. He met Woodhull. 

"Sam, what shall we do?" he demanded. "You re 
sort of in charge now. You ve been a soldier, and we 
haven t had much of that." 

"There are fifteen hundred or two thousand of 

258 



HOW, COLA! 

them," said Woodhull slowly "a hundred and fifty 
of us that can fight. Ten to one, and they mean no 
quarter." 

"But what shall we do?" 

"What can we but lie close and hold the wagons ?" 

"And wait?" 

"Yes." 

"Which means only the Missouri men!" 

"There s no one else. We don t know that they re 
alive. We don t know that they will come." 

"But one thing I do know" his dark face gathered 
in a scowl "if he doesn t come it will not be because 
he was not asked! That fellow carried a letter from 
Molly to him. I know that. Well, what do you-all 
think of me? What s my standing in all this? If I ve 
not been shamed and humiliated, how can a man be? 
And what am I to expect?" 

"If we get through, if Molly lives, you mean?" 

"Yes. I don t quit what I want. I ll never give her 
up. You give me leave to try again? Things may 
change. She may consider the wrong she s done me, 
an honest man. It s his hanging around all the time, 
keeping in her mind. And now we ve sent for him 
and so has she !" 

They walked apart, Wingate to his wagon. 

"How is she?" he asked of his wife, nodding to 
Molly s wagon. 

"Better some ways, but low," replied his stout help 
mate, herself haggard, dark circles of fatigue about her 

259 



THE COVERED WAGON 

eyes. "She won t eat, even with the fever down. If we 
was back home where we could get things ! Jess, what 
made us start for Oregon?" 

"What made us leave Kentucky for Indiana, and 
Indiana for Illinois ? I don t know. God help us now !" 

"It s bad, Jesse." 

"Yes, it s bad." Suddenly he took his wife s face in 
his hands and kissed her quietly. "Kiss Little Molly 
for me/ he said. "I wish I wish " 

"I wish them other wagons d come," said Molly Win- 
gate. "Then we d see !" 






CHAPTER XXXII 

THE FIGHT AT THE FORD 

JACKSON, wounded and weary as he was, drove 
his crippled horse so hard all the night through 
that by dawn he had covered almost fifty miles, 
and was in sight of the long line of wagons, crawling 
like a serpent down the slopes west of the South Pass, 
a cloud of bitter alkali dust hanging like a blanket over 
them. No part of the way had been more cheerless 
than this gray, bare expanse of more than a hundred 
miles, and none offered less invitation for a bivouac. 
But now both man and horse were well-nigh spent. 

Knowing that he would be reached within an hour or 
so at best, Jackson used the last energies of his horse 
in riding back and forth at right angles across the trail, 
the Plains sign of "Come to me !" He hoped it would 
be seen. He flung himself down across the road, in the 
dust, his bridle tied to his wrist. His horse, now 
nearly gone, lay down beside him, nor ever rose again. 
And here, in the time a gallop could bring them up, 
Banion and three of his men found them, one dead, the 
other little better. 

"Bill! Bill!" 

The voice of Banion was anxious as he lightly shook 
261 



THE COVERED WAGON 

the shoulder of the prone man, half afraid that he, too, 
had died. Stupid in sleep, the scout sprang up, rifle in 
hand. 

"Who s thar?" 

"Hold, Bill! Friends! Easy now!" 

The old man pulled together, rubbed his eyes. 

"I must of went to sleep agin," said he. "My horse 
pshaw now, pore critter, do-ee look now !" 

In rapid words he now told his errand. They could 
see the train accelerating its speed. Jackson felt in the 
bag at his belt and handed Banion the folded paper. 
He opened the folds steadily, read the words again 
and again. 

" Come to us/ " is what it says. He spoke to Jack 
son. 

"Ye re a damned*Jiar, Will," remarked Jackson. 

"I ll read it all !" said Banion suddenly. 

" Will Banion, come to me, or it may be too late. 
There never was any wedding. I am the most wicked 
and most unhappy woman in the world. You owe me 
nothing ! But come ! M. W/ 

"That s what it says. Now you know. Tell me 
you heard of no wedding back at Independence Rock ? 
They said nothing? He and she " 

"Ef they was ever any weddin hit was a damned 
pore sort, an* she says thar wasn t none. She d orto 
know." 

"Can you ride, Jackson?" 

"Span in six fast mules for a supply wagon, such as 
262 



THE FIGHT AT THE FORD 

kin gallop. I ll sleep in that a hour or so. Git yore men 
started, Will. We may be too late. It s nigh fifty mile 
to the ford o the Green." 

It came near to mutiny when Banion ordered a third 
of his men to stay back with the ox teams and the 
families. Fifty were mounted and ready in five min 
utes. They were followed by two fast wagons. In one 
of these rolled Bill Jackson, unconscious of the rough 
ness of the way. 

On the Sandy, twenty miles from the ford, they 
wakened him. 

"Now tell me how it lies," said Banion. "How s 
the country ?" 

Jackson drew a sketch on the sand. 

"They ll surround, an they ll cut off the water." 

"Can we ford above and come in behind them?" 

"We mout Send half straight to the ford an half 
come in behind, through the willers, huh? That d put 
em atween three fires. Ef we driv em on the wagons 
they d get hell thar, an ef they broke, the wagons could 
chase em inter us again. I allow we d give em hell. 
Hit s the Crows I m most a-skeered of. The Bannacks 
ef that s who they was 11 run easy." 

At sunset of that day the emigrants, now half mad 
of thirst, and half ready to despair of succor or success, 
heard the Indian drums sound and the shrilling of the 
eagle-bone whistles. The Crows were chanting again. 
Whoops arose along the river bank. 

"My God ! they re coming !" called out a voice. 
263 



THE COVERED WAGON 

There was a stir of uneasiness along the line, an 
ominous thing. And then the savage hosts broke from 
their cover, more than a thousand men,, ready to take 
some loss in their hope that the whites were now more 
helpless. In other circumstances it must have been a 
stirring spectacle for any who had seen it. To these, 
cowering in the sand, it brought terror. 

But before the three ranks of the Crows had cleared 
the cover the last line began to yell, to whip, to break 
away. Scattering but continuous rifle fire followed 
them, war cries arose, not from savages, but white 
men. A line of riders emerged, coming straight 
through to the second rank of the Crow advance. Then 
the beleaguered knew that the Missourians were up. 

"Banion, by God !" said a voice which few stopped 
to recognize as Woodhull s. 

He held his fire, his rifle resting so long through the 
wagon wheel that Caleb Price in one s\\oft motion 
caught it away from him. 

"No harm, friend," said he, "but you ll not need this 
just now!" 

His cold eye looked straight into that of the intending 
murderer. 

The men in the wagon park rose to their work again. 
The hidden Bannacks began to break away from their 
lodgment under the river bank. The sound of hoofs 
and of shouts came down the trail. The other wing 
of the Missourians flung off and cleared the ford before 
they undertook to cross, their slow, irregular, deadly 

264 



THE FIGHT AT THE FORD 

rifle fire doing its work among the hidden Bannacks 
until they broke and ran for their horses in the cotton- 
woods below. This brought them partly into view, 
and the rifles of the emigrants on that side bore on 
them till they broke in sheer terror and fled in a scat 
tered sauve qui peut. 

The Crows swerved under the enfilading fire of the 
men who now crossed the ford. Caught between three 
fires, and meeting for their first time the use of the 
revolver, then new to them, they lost heart and once 
more left their dead, breaking away into a mad flight 
west and north which did not end till they had forded 
the upper tributaries of the Green and Snake, and found 
their way back west of the Tetons to their own country 
far east and north of the Two-go-tee crossing of the 
Wind River Mountains ; whence for many a year they 
did not emerge again to battle with the white nation on 
the Medicine Road. At one time there were forty Crow 
squaws, young and old, with gashed breasts and self- 
amputated fingers, given in mourning over the unre- 
turning brave. 

What many men had not been able to do of their 
own resources, less than a fourth their number now had 
done. Side by side Banion, Jackson, a half dozen 
others, rode up to the wagon gap, now opened. They 
were met by a surge of the rescued. Women, girls 
threw themselves upon them, kissing them, embracing 
them hysterically. Where had been gloom, now was 
rejoicing, laughter, tears. 

265 



THE COVERED WAGON 

The leaders of the emigrants came up to Banion and 
his men, Wingate in advance. Banion still sat his great 
black horse, coldly regarding them. 

"I have kept my promise, Captain Wingate/ said 
he. "I have not come until you sent for me. Let me 
ask once more, do I owe you anything now?" 

"No, sir, you do not," replied the older man. 

"And do you owe me anything?" 

Wingate did not answer. 

"Name what you like, Major Banion," said a voice 
at his shoulder Caleb Price. 

Banion turned to him slowly. 

"Some things have no price, sir," said he. "For 
other things I shall ask a high price in time. Captain 
Wingate, your daughter asked me to come. If I may 
see her a moment, and carry back to my men the hope 
of her recovery, we shall all feel well repaid." 

Wingate made way with the others. Banion rode 
straight through the gap, with no more than one unsee 
ing glance at Woodhull, near whom sat Jackson, a pistol 
resting on his thigh. He came to the place under a 
wagon where they had made a hospital cot for Molly 
Wingate. It was her own father and mother who 
lifted her out as Will Banion sprang down, hat in hand, 
pale in his own terror at seeing her so pale. 

"No, don t go!" said the girl to her parents. "Be 
here with us and God." 

She held out her arms and he bent above her, kissing 
her forehead gently and shyly as a boy. 

266 



THE FIGHT AT THE FORD 

"Please get well, Molly Wingate," said he. "You 
are Molly Wingate?" 

"Yes. At the end I couldn t! I ran away, all in 
my wedding clothes, Will. In the dark. Someone shot 
me. I ve been sick, awfully sick, Will." 

"Please get well, Molly Wingate! I m going away 
again. This time, I don t know where. Can t you 
forget me, Molly Wingate?" 

"I m going to try, Will. I did try. Go on ahead, 
Will," she added. "You know what I mean. Do what 
I told you. I why, Will !" 

"My poor lamb !" said the strong voice of her mother, 
who gathered her in her arms, looking over her shoulder 
at this man to whom her child had made no vows. 
But Banion, wet eyed, was gone once more. 

Jackson saw his leader out of the wagon gap, headed 
for a camping spot far apart. He stumbled up to the 
cot where Molly lay, her silent parents still close by. 

"Here, Miss Molly, gal," said he, holding out 
some object in his hand. "We both got a arrer 
through the shoulder, an mine s a most well a ready. 
Ain t nothin in the world like a good chaw o tobackerr 
to put on a arrer cut. Do-ee, now !" 



CHAPTER XXXIII 

THE FAMILIES ARE COMING ! 

THE Missourians camped proudly and coldly 
apart, the breach between the two factions 
by no means healed, but rather deepened, even 
if honorably so, and now well understood of all. 

Most men of both parties now knew of the feud be 
tween Banion and Woodhull, and the cause underlying 
it. Woman gossip did what it might. A half dozen de 
termined men quietly watched Woodhull. As many 
continually were near Banion, although for quite a 
different reason. All knew that time alone must work 
out the answer to this implacable quarrel, and that the 
friends of the two men could not possibly train up 
together. 

After all, when in sheer courtesy the leaders of the 
Wingate train came over to the Missouri camp on the 
following day there came nearer to being a good under 
standing than there ever had been since the first break. 
It was agreed that all the wagons should go on together 
as far as Fort Bridger, and that beyond that point the 
train should split into two or perhaps three bodies a 
third if enough Woodhull adherents could be found 
to make him up a train. First place, second and third 
Were to be cast by lot. They all talked soberly, fairly, 
with the dignity of men used to good standing among 

268 



THE FAMILIES ARE COMING! 

men. These matters concluded, and it having been 
agreed that all should lie by for another day, they re 
solved the meeting into one of better fellowship. 

Old Bill Jackson, lying against his blanket roll, fell 
into reminiscence. 

"Times past," said he, "the Green River Rendyvous 
was helt right in here. I ve seed this place spotted with 
tepees hull valley full o Company men an free trap 
pers an pack-train people time o Ashley an Sublette 
an my Uncle Jackson an all them traders. That was 
right here on the Green. Ever body drunk an happy, 
like I ain t now. Mounting men togged out, new leg- 
gin s an moccasins their womern had made, warriors 
painted up a inch o their lives, an women with brass 
wire an calico all they wanted maybe two-three thou 
sand people in the Rendyvous. 

"But I never seed the grass so short, an I never seed 
so much fightin afore in all my life as I have this 
trip. This is the third time we re jumped, an this 
time we re lucky, shore as hell. Pull on through to 
Bridger an fix yer wagons afore they tumble apart. 
Leave the grass fer them that follows, an git on fur s 
you kin, every wagon. We ain t likely to have no more 
trouble now. Pile up them braves in one heap fer a 
warnin to any other bunch o reds that may come 
along to hide around the wagon ford. New times has 
come on the Green." 

"Can you travel, Jackson?" asked Hall of Ohio. 
"You ve had a hard time." 

269 



THE COVERED WAGON 

"Who ? Me ? Why shouldn t I ? Give me time to 
pick up some o them bows an arrers an* I m ready to 
start. I noticed a right fine horn bow one o them 
devils had the Crows allus had good bows. That s 
the yaller-an -red brave that was itchin so long to slap 
a arrer through my ribs from behind. I d like to keep 
his bow f er him, him not needin it now." 

Before the brazen sun had fully risen on the second 
day these late peaceful farmers of Ohio, Iowa, Illinois, 
Indiana, Missouri were plodding along once more be 
side their sore- footed oxen ; passing out unaided into a 
land which many leading men in the Government, 
North and South, and quite aside from political affilia 
tions, did not value at five dollars for it all, though still 
a thousand miles of it lay ahead. 

"Oh, then, Susannah!" roared Jed Wingate, trudg 
ing along beside Molly s wagon in the sand. "Don t 
you cry fer me I m going through to Oregon, with 
my banjo on my knee!" 

Fair as a garden to the sun-seared eyes of the 
emigrants seemed the mountain post, Fort Bridger, 
when its rude stockade separated itself from the dis 
tortions of the desert mirage, whose citadels of silence, 
painted temples fronted with colossal columns, giant 
sphinxes, vast caryatids, lofty arches, fretwork fagades, 
fantastically splendid castles and palaces now resolved 
themselves into groups of squat pole structures and a 
rude stock corral. 

270 



THE FAMILIES ARE COMING! 

The site of the post itself could not better have been 
chosen. Here the flattened and dividing waters of the 
Black s Fork, icy cold and fresh from the Uintah 
Mountains to the southward, supported a substantial 
growth of trees, green now and wonderfully refresh 
ing to desert-weary eyes. 

"The families are coming!" 

Bridger s clerk, Chardon, raised the new cry of the 
trading post 

"Broke an hungry, I ll bet !" swore old Jim Bridger 
in his beard. 

But he retired into his tepee and issued orders to 
his Shoshone squaw, who was young and pretty. Her 
name, as he once had said, was Dang Yore Eyes and 
she was very proud of it. Philosophical withal, though 
smarting under recent blows of her white lord, she 
now none the less went out and erected once more in 
front of the tepee the token Bridger had kicked down 
the tufted lance, the hair- fringed bull-neck shield, the 
sacred medicine bundle which had stood in front of 
Jeem s tepee in the Rendezvous on Horse Creek, what 
time he had won her in a game of hands. Where 
upon the older squaw, not young, pretty or jealous, 
abused him in Ute and went out after wood. Her 
name was Blast Your Hide, and she also was very 
proud of her white name. Whereafter both Dang 
Yore Eyes and Blast Yore Hide, female, and hence 
knowing the moods of man, wisely hid out for a 
while. They knew when Jeem had the long talk with 

271 



THE COVERED WAGON 

the sick white squaw, who was young, but probably 
needed bitter bark of the cotton wood to cure her fever. 

Painted Utes and Shoshones stood about, no more 
silent than the few local mountaineers, bearded, beaded 
and fringed, who still after some mysterious fashion 
clung to the old life at the post. Against the new 
comers, profitable as they were, still existed the an 
cient antipathy of the resident for the nonresident. 

"My land sakes alive!" commented stoical Molly 
Wingate after they had made some inquiries into the 
costs of staples here. "This store ain t no place to 
trade. They want fifty dollars a sack for flour what 
do you think of that? We got it for two dollars 
back home. And sugar a dollar a tin cup, and just 
plain salt two bits a pound, and them to guess at the 
pound. Do they think we re Indians, or what?" 

"It s the tenth day of August, and a thousand miles 
ahead," commented Caleb Price. "And we re beyond 
the buffalo now." 

"And Sis is in trouble," added Jed Wingate. "The 
light wagon s got one hind spindle half in two, and 
I ve spliced the hind ex for the last time." 

Jackson advanced an idea. 

"At Fort Hall," he said, "I ve seed em cut a wagon 
in two an make a two-wheel cart out n hit. They re 
easier to git through mountains that way." 

"Now listen to that, Jesse!" Mrs. Wingate com 
mented. "It s getting down to less and less every day. 
But I m going to take my bureau through, and my 

272 



THE FAMILIES ARE COMING! 

wheat, and my rose plants, if I have to put wheels on 
my bureau." 

The men determined to saw down three wagons of 
the train which now seemed doubtful of survival as 
quadrupeds, and a general rearrangement of cargoes 
was agreed. Now they must jettison burden of 
every dispensable sort. Some of the sore-necked oxen 
were to be thrown into the loose herd and their places 
taken for a time by cows no longer offering milk. 
/ A new soberness began to sit on all. The wide 
reaches of desert with which they here were in touch 
appalled their hearts more than anything they yet had 
met. The grassy valley of the Platte, where the great 
fourfold tracks of the trail cut through a waving sea 
of green belly deep to the oxen, had seemed easy and 
inviting, and since then hardship had at least been 
spiced with novelty and change. But here was a new 
and forbidding land. /This was the Far West itself; 
silent, inscrutable, unchanged, irreducible. The 
mightiness of its calm was a smiting thing. The awe- 
someness of its chill, indifferent nights, the unsparing 
ardors of its merciless noons, the measureless expanses 
of its levels, the cold barrenness of its hills these 
things did not invite as to the bosom of a welcoming 
mother; they repelled, as with the chill gesture of a 
stranger turning away outcasts from the door. ^ 

"Here resolution almost faints!" wrote one. 

A general requisition was made on the scant stores 
Bridger had hurried through. Jo their surprise, 

273 



THE COVERED WAGON 

Bridger himself made no attempt at frontier profits. 

"Chardon," commanded the moody master of the 
post to his head clerk, "take down your tradin bar an* 
let my people in. Sell them their flour an meal at 
what it has cost us here all they want, down to what 
the post will need till my partner Vasquez brings in 
more next fall, if he ever does. Sell em their flour at 
four dollars a sack, an not at fifty, boy. Git out that 
flag I saved from Subletted outfit, Chardon. Put it 
on a pole for these folks, an give it to them so s they 
kin carry it on acrost to Oregon. God s got some 
use for them folks out yan or hit wouldn t be hap- 
penin this way. I m goin to help em acrost. Ef I 
don t, old Jim Bridger is a liar!" 

That night Bridger sat in his lodge alone, moodily 
smoking. He heard a shaking at the pegs of the door 
flap. 

"Get out!" he exclaimed, thinking that it was his 
older associate, or else some intruding dog. 

His order was not obeyed. Will Banion pulled back 
the flap, stooped and entered. 

"How!" exclaimed Bridger, and with fist smitten 
on the blankets made the sign to "Sit!" Banion for 
a time also smoked in silence, knowing the moody ways 
of the old-time men. 

"Ye came to see me about her, Miss Molly, didn t 
ye?" began Bridger after a long time, kicking the 
embers of the tepee fire together with the toe of his 
moccasin. 

274 



THE FAMILIES ARE COMING! 

"How do you know that?" 

"I kin read signs." 

"Yes, she sent me." 

"When?" 

"That was at Laramie. She told me to come on 
with you then. I could not" 

Tore child, they mout a killed her ! She told me 
she d git well, though told me so to-day. I had a talk 
with her." His wrinkled face broke into additional 
creases. "She told me more !" 

"I ve no wonder." 

"Ner me. Ef I was more young and less Injun I d 
love that gal ! I do, anyhow, f er sake o what I might 
of been ef I hadn t had to play my game the way the 
cards said fer me. 

"She told me she was shot on her weddin night, 
in her weddin clothes right plum to the time an min 
ute o marryin, then an thar. She told me she thanked 
God the Injun shot her, an she wished to God he d 
killed her then an thar. I d like such fer a bride, huh? 
That s one hell of a weddin , huh? Why?" 

Banion sat silent, staring at the embers. 

"I know why, or part ways why. Kit an me was 
drunk at Laramie. I kain t remember much. But 
I do ree-colleck Kit said something to me about you 
in the Army, with Donerphan in Mayheeco. Right 
then I gits patriotic. Hooray! says I. Then we 
taken another drink. After that we fell to arguin 
how much land we d git out o Mayheeco when the 

275 



THE COVERED WAGON 

treaty was signed. He said hit war done signed now, 
or else hit warn t. I don t ree-colleck which, but hit 
was one or t other. He had papers. Ef I see Kit agin 
ary time now I ll ast him what his papers was. I don t 
ree-colleck exact. 

"All that, ye see, boy," he resumed, "was atter I 
was over to the wagons at Laramie, when I seed 
Miss Molly to say good-by to her. I reckon maybe 
I was outside o sever l horns even then." 

"And that was when you gave her the California 
nugget that Kit Carson had given you !" Banion spoke 
at last. 

"Oh, ye spring no surprise, boy! She told me to 
day she d told you then ; said she d begged you to go 
on with me an beat all the others to Calif orny; said 
she wanted you to git rich ; said you an her had parted, 
an she wanted you to live things down. I was to tell 
ye that. 

"Boy, she loves ye not me ner that other man. The 
Injun womern kin love a dozen men. The white 
womern kain t. I m still fool white enough fer to be 
lieve that. Of course she d break her promise not to 
tell about the gold. I might a knowed she d tell the 
man she loved. Well, she didn t wait long. How 
long was hit afore she done so about ten minutes? 
Boy, she loves ye. Hit ain t no one else." 

"I think so. I m afraid so." 

"Why don t ye marry her then, damn ye, right here? 
Ef a gal loves a man he orto marry her, ef only to cure 

276 



THE FAMILIES ARE COMING! 

her o bein a damn fool to love any man. Why don t 
you marry her right now?" 

"Because I love her !" 

Bridger sat in disgusted silence for some time. 

"Well," said he at last, "there s some kinds o 
damned fools that kain t be cured noways. I expect 
you re one o them. Me, I hain t so highfalutin . Ef 
I love a womern, an her me, somethin s goin to hap 
pen. What s this here like? Nothin happens. Son, 
it s when nothin happens that somethin else does hap 
pen. She marries another man barrin Rapahoes. A 
fool fer luck that s you. But there mightn t always 
be a Injun hidin to shoot her when she gits dressed 
up agin an the minister is a-waitin to pernounce em 
man an wife. Then whar air ye?" 

He went on more kindly after a time, as he reached 
out a hard, sinewy hand. 

"Such as her is fer the young man that has a white 
man s full life to give her. She s purty as a doe fawn 
an kind as a thoroughbred filly. In course ye loved 
her, boy. How could ye a-help hit ? An ye was willin 
to go to Oregon ye d plow rather n leave sight o 
her? I don t blame ye, boy. Such as her is not sup 
ported by rifle an trap. Hit s the home smoke, not the 
tepee fire, for her. I ask ye nothin more, boy. I ll 
not ask ye what ye mean. Man an boy, I ve follered 
the tepee smokes blue an a-movin an a-beckonin 
they was an I never set this hand to no plow in all 
my life. But in my heart two things never was wiped 

277 



THE COVERED WAGON 

out the sight o the white womern s face an the sight 
o the flag with stars. Til help ye all I can, an good 
luck go with ye. Work hit out yore own way. She s 
worth more n all the gold Calif orny s got buried!" 

This time it was Will Banion s hand that was sud 
denly extended. 

"Take her secret an take her advice then," said 
Bridger after a time. "Ye must git in ahead to Cali- 
forny. Fust come fust served, on any beaver water. 
Per me tis easy. I kin hold my hat an the immigrints ll 
throw money into hit. I ve got my fortune here, boy. 
I can easy spare ye what ye need, ef ye do need a helpin 
out n my plate. Fer sake o the finest gal that ever 
crossed the Plains, that s what we ll do! Ef I don t, 
Jim Bridger s a putrefied liar, so help me God!" 

Banion made no reply at once, but could not fail 
of understanding. 

"I ll not need much," said he. "My place is to go on 
ahead with my men. I don t think there ll be much 
danger now from Indians, from what I hear. At Fort 
Hall I intend to split off for California. Now I make 
you this proposition, not in payment for your secret, 
or for anything else: If I find gold I ll give you half 
of all I get, as soon as I get out or as soon as I can 
send it." 

"What do ye want o me, son?" 

"Six mules and packs. All the shovels and picks 
you have or can get for me at Fort Hall. There s 
another thing." 

278 



THE FAMILIES ARE COMING! 

"An what is that?" 

"I want you to find out what Kit Carson said and 
what Kit Carson had. If at any time you want to 
reach me six months, a year get word through by 
the wagon trains next year, in care of the District Court 
at Oregon City, on the Willamette." 

"Why, all right, all right, son! We re all maybe 
talkin in the air, but I more n half understand ye. 
One thing, ye ain t never really intendin to give up 
Molly Wingate ! Ye re a fool not to marry her now, 
but ye re reckonin to marry her sometime when the 
moon turns green, huh? When she s old an shriveled 
up, then ye ll marry her, huh?" 

Banion only looked at him, silent. 

"Well, I d like to go on to Calif orny with ye, son, 
ef I didn t know I d make more here, an easier, out n 
the crazy fools that ll be pilin in here next year. So 
good luck to ye." 

"Kit had more o that stuff," he suddenly added. 
"He give me some more when I told him I d lost that 
fust piece he give me. I ll give ye a piece fer sample, 
son. I ve kej/ hit close." 

He begun fumbling in the tobacco pouch which he 
found under the head of his blanket bed. He looked 
up blankly, slightly altering the name of his youngest 
squaw. 

"Well, damn her hide!" said he fervently. "Ye 
kain t keep nothin from em! An 1 they kain t keep 
nothin when they git hit." 



CHAPTER XXXIV 

A MATTER OF FRIENDSHIP 

ONCE more the train, now permanently divided 
into two, faced the desert, all the men and 
many women now afoot, the kine low-headed, 
stepping gingerly in their new rawhide shoes. Gray, 
grim work, toiling over the dust and sand. But at the 
head wagon, taking over an empire foot by foot, flew 
the great flag. Half fanatics? That may be. Fan 
atics, so called, also had prayed and sung and taught 
their children, all the way across to the Great Salt Lake. 
They, too, carried books. And within one hour after 
their halt near the Salt Lake they began to plow, began 
to build, began to work, began to grow and make a. 
country. 

The men at the trading post saw the Missouri 
wagons pull out ahead. Two hours later the Win- 
gate train followed, as the lot had determined. Wood- 
hull remained with his friends in the Wingate group, 
regarded now with an increasing indifference, but bid 
ing his time. 

Bridger held back his old friend Jackson even after 
the last train pulled out. It was mid afternoon when 
the start was made. 

"Don t go just yet, Bill," said he. "Ride on an over- 
280 



THE FAMILIES ARE COMING! 

take em. Nothin but rattlers an* jack rabbits now fer 
a while. The Shoshones won t hurt em none. I m 
powerful lonesome, somehow. Let s you an me have 
one more drink." 

"That sounds reas nble," said Jackson. "Shore 
that sounds reas nble to me." 

They drank of a keg which the master of the post 
had hidden in his lodge, back of his blankets; drank 
again of high wines diluted but uncolored the "likker" 
of the fur trade. 

They drank from tin cups, until Bridger began to 
chant, a deepening sense of his old melancholy on him. 

"Good-by!" he said again and again, waving his 
hand in general vagueness to the mountains. 

"We was friends, wasn t we, Bill?" he demanded 
again and again; and Jackson, drunk as he, nodded 
in like maudlin gravity. He himself began to chant. 
The two were savages again. 

"Well, we got to part, Bill. This is Jim Bridger s 
last Rendyvous. I ve rid around an said good-by to 
the mountings. Why don t we do it the way the big 
partisans allus done when the Rendyvous was over? 
Twas old Mike Fink an his friend Carpenter begun 
hit, fifty year ago. Keel-boat men on the river, they 
was. There s as good shots left to-day as then, an as 
good friends. You an me has seed hit; we seed hit 
at the very last meetin o the Rocky Mountain Com 
pany men, before the families come. An nary a man 
spilled the whiskey on his partner s head." 

281 



THE COVERED WAGON 

"That s the truth," assented Jackson. "Though some 
I wouldn t trust now." 

"Would ye trust me, Bill, like I do you, fer sake 
o the old times, when friends was friends?" 

"Shore I would, no matter how come, Jim. My 
hand s stiddy as a rock, even though my shootin 
shoulder s a leetle stiff from that Crow arrer." 

Each man held out his firing arm, steady as a bar. 

"I kin still see the nail heads on the door, yan. Kin 
ye, Bill?" 

"Plain! It s a waste o likker, Jim, fer we d both 
drill the cups." 

"Are ye a-skeered ?" 

"I told ye not." 

"Chardon!" roared Bridger to his clerk. "You, 
Chardon, come here!" 

The clerk obeyed, though he and others had been 
discreet about remaining visible as this bout of old- 
timers at their cups went on. Liquor and gunpowder 
usually went together. 

"Chardon, git ye two fresh tin cups an* bring em 
here. Bring a piece o charcoal to spot the cups. We re 
goin to shoot em off each other s heads in the old way. 
You know what I mean" 

Chardon, trembling, brought the two tin cups, and 
Bridger with a burnt ember sought to mark plainly 
on each a black bull s-eye. Silence fell on the few ob 
servers, for all the emigrants had now gone and the 
open space before the rude trading building was va- 

282 



A MATTER OF FRIENDSHIP 

cant, although a few faces peered around corners. At 
the door of the tallest tepee two native women sat, a 
young and an old, their blankets drawn across their 
eyes, accepting fate, and not daring to make a protest. 

"How !" exclaimed Bridger as he filled both cups and 
put them on the ground. "Have ye wiped yer bar l?" 

"Shore I have. Let s wipe agin." 

Each drew his ramrod from the pipes and attached 
the cleaning worm with its twist of tow, kept handy 
in belt pouch in muzzle-loading days. 

"Clean as a whistle !" said Jackson, holding out the 
end of the rod. 

"So s mine, pardner. Old Jim Bridger never dis 
graced hisself with a rifle." 

"Ner me/ 1 commented Jackson. "Hold a hair full, 
Jim, an cut nigh the top o the tin. That ll be safer 
fer my skelp, an hit ll let less whisky out n the hole. 
We got to drink what s left. S pose n we have a snort 
now?" 

"Atter we both shoot we kin drink," rejoined his 
friend, with a remaining trace of judgment. "Go take 
stand whar we marked the scratch. Chardon, damn 
ye, carry the cup down an set hit on his head, an ef 
ye spill a drop I ll drill ye, d ye hear?" 

The engage s face went pale. 

"But Monsieur Jim " he began. 

"Don t Monsieur Jim me or I ll drill a hole in ye 
anyways! Do-ee-do what I tell ye, boy! Then if ye 

283 



THE COVERED WAGON 

crave fer to see some oT-time shootin come on out, 
the hull o ye, an take a lesson, damn ye !" 

"Do-ee ye shoot first, Bill," demanded Bridger. "The 
light s soft, an we ll swap atter the fust fire, to git hit 
squar for the hindsight, an no shine on the side o the 
front sight." 

"No, we ll toss fer fust," said Jackson, and drew 
out a Spanish dollar. "Tails fer me last!" he called 
as it fell. "An I win ! You go fust, Jim." 

"Shore I will ef the toss-up says so," rejoined his 
friend. "Step off the fifty yard. What sort o iron 
ye carryin , Bill?" 

"Why do ye ask? Ye know ol Mike Sheets in Vir 
ginia never bored a better. I ve never changed." 

"Ner I from my old Hawken. Two good guns, an* 
two good men, Bill, o the ol times the ol times! 
We kain t say fairer n this, can we, at our time o life, 
fer favor o the old times, Bill? We got to do some- 
thin , so s to kind o git rested up." 

"No man kin say fairer," said his friend. 

They shook hands solemnly and went onward with 
their devil-may-care test, devised in a historic keel-boat 
man s brain, as inflamed then by alcohol as their own 
were now. 

Followed by the terrified clerk, Bill Jackson, tall, thin 
and grizzled, stoical as an Indian, and too drunk to 
care much for consequences, so only he proved his skill 
and his courage, walked steadily down to the chosen 
spot and stood, his arms folded, after leaning his own 

284 



A MATTER OF FRIENDSHIP 

rifle against the door of the trading room. He faced 
Bridger without a tremor, his head bare, and cursed 
Char don for a coward when his hand trembled as he 
balanced the cup on Jackson s head. 

"Damn ye, " he exclaimed, "there ll be plenty lost 
without any o your spillin !" 

"Air ye all ready, Bill ?" called Bridger from his sta 
tion, his rifle cocked and the delicate triggers set, so 
perfect in their mechanism that the lightest touch 
against the trigger edge would loose the hammer. 

"All ready !" answered Jackson. 

The two, jealous still of the ancient art of the rifle, 
which nowhere in the world obtained nicer develop 
ment than among men such as these, faced each other 
in what always was considered the supreme test of 
nerve and skill; for naturally a man s hand might 
tremble, sighting three inches above his friend s eyes, 
when it would not move a hair sighting center between 
the eyes of an enemy. 

Bridger spat out his tobacco chew and steadily raised 
his rifle. The man opposite him stood steady as a pillar, 
and did not close his eyes. The silence that fell on 
those who saw became so intense that it seemed verit 
ably to radiate, reaching out over the valley to the 
mountains as in a hush of leagues. 

For an instant, which to the few observers seemed 
an hour, these two figures, from which motion seemed 
to have passed forever, stood frozen. Then there came 

285 



THE COVERED WAGON 

a spurt of whitish-blue smoke and the thin dry crack 
of the border rifle. 

The hand and eye of Jim Bridger, in spite of ad 
vancing years, remained true to their long training. 
At the rifle crack the tin cup on the head of the statue- 
like figure opposite him was flung behind as though by 
the blow of an invisible hand. The spin of the bullet, 
acting on the liquid contents, ripped apart the seams 
of the cup and flung the fluid wide. Then and not till 
then did Jackson move. 

He picked up the empty cup, bored center directly 
through the black spot, and turning walked with it 
in his hand toward Bridger, who was wiping out his 
rifle once more. 

"I call hit mighty careless shootin ," said he, irri 
tated. "Now lookee what ye done to the likker! Ef 
ye d held a leetle higher, above the level o* the likker, 
like I told ye, she wouldn t o busted open thataway now. 
It s nacherl, thar warn t room in the cup fer both the 
likker an the ball. That s wastin likker, Jim, an my 
mother told me when I was a boy, Willful waste 
makes woeful want! 

"I call hit a plum-center shot," grumbled Bridger. 
"Do-ee look now ! Maybe ye think ye kin do better 
shoot in yerself than old Jim Bridger!" 

"Shore I kin, an I ll show ye! I ll bet my rifle 
aginst yourn ef I wanted so sorry a piece as yourn 
I kin shoot that clost to the mark an not spill 
no likker a-tall! An ye can fill her two-thirds full 

286 



A MATTER OF FRIEND SHII 

an* put yer thumb in fer the balance ef ye like." 

"I ll just bet ye a new mule agin yer pony ye kain t 
do nothin o the sort!" retorted Bridger. 

"All right, I ll show ye. O course, ye got to hold 
still." 

"Who said I wouldn t hold still? 

"Nobody. Now you watch me." 

He stooped at the little water ditch which had been 
led in among the buildings from the stream and 
kneaded up a little ball of mud. This he forced into 
the handle of the tin cup, entirely filling it, then washed 
off the body of the cup. 

"I ll shoot the fillin out n the handle an* not out n 
the cup !" said he. "Mud s cheap, an* all the diff runce 
in holdin is, ef I nicked the side o yer haid it d hurt 
ye bout the same as ef what I nicked the center o hit. 
Ain t that so? We d orto practice inderstry an 
conomy, Jim. Like my mother said, Penny saved 
is er penny yearned/ Little drops o water, little 
gains o sand, says she, a-makes the mighty o-o-ocean, 
an the plea-ea-sant land. " 

"I never seed it tried/ said Bridger, with interest, 
"but I don t see why hit hain t practical. Whang 
away, an ef ye spill the whisky shootin to one side, 
or cut har shootin too low, your caballo is mine an 
he hain t much!" 

With no more argument, he in turn took up his 
place, the two changing positions so that the light 
would favor the rifleman. Again the fear-smitten 

287 



THE COVERED WAGON 

Chardon adjusted the filled cup, this time on his mas 
ter s bared head. 

"Do-ee turn her sideways now, boy," cautioned 
Bridger. "Set the han le sideways squar , so she looks 
wide. Give him a fa r shot now, fer I m interested in 
this yere thing, either way she goes. Either I lose ha r; 
er a mule." 

But folding his arms he faced the rifle without bat 
ting an eye, as steady as had been the other in his turn. 

Jackson extended his long left arm, slowly and 
steadily raising the silver bead up from the chest, the 
throat, the chin, the forehead of his friend, then low 
ered it, rubbing his sore shoulder. 

"Tell him to turn that han le squar to me, Jim!" 
he called. "The damn fool has got her all squegeed 
eroun to one side." 

Bridger reached up a hand and straightened the cup 
himself. 

"How s that?" he asked. 

"All right! Now hold stiddy a minute." 

Again the Indian women covered their faces, sitting 
motionless. And at last came again the puff of smoke, 
the faint crack of the rifle, never loud in the high, 
rarefied air. 

The straight figure of the scout never wavered. The 
cup still rested on his head. The rifleman calmly blew 
the smoke from his barrel, his eye on Bridger as the 
latter now raised a careful hand to his head. Chardon 
hastened to aid, with many ejaculations. 

288 



A MATTER OF FRIENDSHIP 

The cup still was full, but the mud was gone from 
inside the handle as though poked out with a finger ! 

"That s what I call shootin , Jim," said Jackson, "an 
reas nable shootin too. Now spill half o her where 
she ll do some good, an give me the rest. I got to 
be goin now. I don t want yer mule. I fust come 
away from Missouri to git shet o mules." 

Chardon, cupbearer, stood regarding the two wild 
souls whom he never in his own more timid nature 
was to understand. The two mountain men shook 
hands. The alcohol had no more than steadied them 
in their rifle work, but the old exultation of their wild 
life came to them now once more. Bridger clapped 
hand to mouth and uttered his old war cry before he 
drained his share of the fiery fluid. 

"To the ol days, friend!" said he once more; "the 
days that s gone, when men was men, an a friend could 
trust a friend !" 

"To the ol days !" said Jackson in turn. "An I ll 
bet two better shots don t stand to-day on the soil o 
Oregon ! But I got to be goin , Jim. I m goin on to 
the Columby. I may not see ye soon. It s far." 

He swung into his saddle, the rifle in its loop at 
the horn. But Bridger came to him, a hand on his 
knee. 

"I hate to see ye go, Bill." 

"Shore !" said Jackson. "I hate to go. Take keer 
yerself, Jim." 

The two Indian women had uncovered their faces 
289 



THE COVERED WAGON 

and gone inside the lodge. But old Jim Bridget sat 
down, back against a cottonwood, and watched the lop 
ping figure of his friend jog slowly out into the desert. 
He himself was singing now, chanting monotonously 
an old Indian refrain that lingered in his soul from the 
days of the last Rendezvous. 

At length he arose, and animated by a sudden 
thought sought out his tepee once more. Dang Yore 
Eyes greeted him with shy smiles of pride. 

"Heap shoot, Jeem!" said she. "No kill-urn. 
Why?" 

She was decked now in her finest, ready to use all 
her blandishments on her lord and master. Her cheeks 
were painted red, her wrists were heavy with copper. 
On a thong at her neck hung a piece of yellow stone 
which she had bored through with an awl, or rather 
with three or four awls, after much labor, that very 
day. 

Bridger picked up the ornament betwen thumb and 
finger. He said no word, but his fingers spoke. 

"Other pieces. Where ?" 

"White man. Gone out there." She answered in 
the same fashion. 

"How, cola!" she spoke aloud. "Him say, How, 
cola, me." She smiled with much pride over her 
conquest, and showed two silver dollars. "Swap !" 

In silence Bridger went into the tepee and pulled 
the door flaps. 



290 



M 



CHAPTER XXXV 

GEE WHOA HAW ! 

Am mr IDSUMMER in the desert. The road now, 
but for the shifting of the sands, would have 
been marked by the bodies of dead cattle, in 
death scarcely more bone and parchment than for days 
they had been while alive. The horned toad, the cac 
tus, the rattlesnake long since had replaced the prairie 
vlogs of the grassy floor of the eastern Plains. A 
scourge of great black crickets appeared, crackling 
loathsomely under the wheels. Sagebrush and sand took 
the place of trees and grass as they left the river valley 
and crossed a succession of ridges or plateaus. At last 
they reached vast black basaltic masses and lava fields, 
proof of former subterranean fires which seemingly 
had forever dried out the life of the earth s surface. 
The very vastness of the views might have had charm 
but for the tempering feeling of awe, of doubt, of fear. 
They had followed the trail over the immemorial 
tribal crossings over heights of land lying between the 
heads of streams. Frorr the Green River, which finds 
the great canons of the Colorado, they came into the 
vast horseshoe valley o^ the Bear, almost circumventing 
the Great Salt Lake, but unable to forsake it at last. 

291 



THE COVERED WAGON 

West and south now rose bold mountains around whose 
northern extremity the river had felt its way, and back 
of these lay fold on fold of lofty ridges, now softened 
by the distances. Of all the splendid landscapes of the 
Oregon Trail, this one had few rivals. But they must 
leave this and cross to yet another though less inviting 
vast river valley of the series which led them across the 
continent. 

Out of the many wagons which Jesse Wingate orig 
inally had captained, now not one hundred remained 
in his detachment when it took the sagebrush plateaus 
below the great Snake River. They still were back of 
the Missouri train, no doubt several days, but no mes 
sage left on a cleft stick at camp cheered them or en 
lightened them. And now still another defection had 
cut down the train. 

Woodhull, moody and irascible, feverish and excited 
by turns, ever since leaving Bridger had held secret 
conclaves with a few of his adherents, the nature of 
which he did not disclose. There was no great sur 
prise and no extreme regret when, within safe reach 
of Fort Hall, he had announced his intention of going 
on ahead with a dozen wagons. He went without ob 
taining any private interview with Molly Wingate. 

These matters none the less had their depressing 

effect. Few illusions remaii.ed to any of them now, 

and no romance. Yet they went on ten miles, fifteen 

cmetimes, though rarely twenty miles a day. Women 

fell asleep, babes in arms, jostling on the wagon seats; 

292 



GEE-WHO A-H AW ! 

men almost slept as they walked, ox whip in hand ; the 
cattle slept as they stumbled on, tongues dry and lolling. 
All the earth seemed strange, unreal. They advanced 
as though in a dream through some inferno of a 
crazed imagination. 

About them now often rose the wavering images of 
the mirage, offering water, trees, wide landscapes ; beck 
oning in such desert deceits as they often now had 
seen. One day as the brazen sun mocked them from 
its zenith they saw that they were not alone on the 
trail. 

"Look, mother!" exclaimed Molly Wingate she 
now rode with her mother on the seat of the family 
wagon, Jed driving her cart when not on the cow col 
umn. "See! There s a caravan !" 

Her cry was echoed or anticipated by scores of voices 
of others who had seen the same thing. They pointed 
west and south. 

Surely there was a caravan a phantom caravan! 
Far off, gigantic, looming and lowering again, it paral 
leled the advance of their own train, which in numbers 
it seemed to equal. Slowly, steadily, irresistibly, awe 
somely, it kept pace with them, sending no sign to them, 
mockingly indifferent to them mockingly so, indeed; 
for when the leaders of the Wingate wagons [ nsed 
the riders of the ghostly train paused also, biding 
their time with no action to indicate their intent. When 
the advance was resumed the uncanny pari passu again 
went on, the rival caravan going forward as fast, no 

293 



THE COVERED WAGON 

faster than those who regarded it in a fascinated inter 
est that began to become fear. Yonder caravan could 
bode no good. Without doubt it planned an ambush 
farther on, and this sinister indifference meant only 
its certainty of success. 

Or were there, then, other races of men out here in 
this unknown world of heat and sand? Was this a 
treasure train of old Spanish cargadoresf Did ghosts 
live and move as men? If not, what caravan was this, 
moving alone, far from the beaten trail? What pur 
pose had it here ? 

"Look, mother!" 

The girl s voice rose eagerly again, but this time with 
a laugh in it. And her assurance passed down the line, 
others laughing in relief at the solution. 

"It s ourselves !" said Molly. "It s the Fata Morgana 
but how marvelous ! Who could believe it ?" 

Indeed, the mirage had taken that rare and extraor 
dinary form. The mirage of their own caravan, rising, 
was reflected, mirrored, by some freak of the desert 
sun and air, upon the fine sand blown in the air at a 
distance from the train. It was, indeed, themselves 
they saw, not knowing it, in a vast primordial mirror 
if the desert gods. Nor did the discovery of the truth 
lessen the feeling of discomfort, of apprehension. The 
laughter was at best uneasy until at last a turn in the 
trail, a shift in the wizardry of the heat waves, broke 
up the ghostly caravan and sent it, figure by figure, 

294 



GEE-WHO A-H AW ! 

vehicle by vehicle, into the unknown whence it had 
come. 

"This country !" exclaimed Molly Wingate s mother. 
"It scares me! If Oregon s like this " 

"It isn t, mother. It is rich and green, with rains. 
There are great trees, many mountains, beautiful rivers 
where we are going, and there are fields of grain. There 
are why, there are homes !" 

The sudden pathos of her voice drew her mother s 
frowning gaze. 

"There, there, child!" said she. "Dcn t you mind. 
We ll always have a home for you, your paw and me." 

The girl shook her head. 

"I sometimes think I d better teach school and live 
alone." 

"And leave your parents ?" 

"How can I look my father in the face every day, 
knowing what he feels about me ? Just now he accuses 
me of ruining Sam Woodhull s life driving him away, 
out of the train. But what could I do? Marry him, 
after all? I can t I can t! I m glad he s gone, but 
I don t know why he went." 

"In my belief you haven t heard or seen the last 
of Sam Woodhull yet," mused her mother. "Some 
times a man gets sort of peeved wants to marry a 
girl that jilts him more n if she hadn t. And you cer 
tainly jilted him at the church door, if there d been 
any church there. It was an awful thing, Molly. I 
don t know as I see how Sam stood it long as he did." 

295 



THE COVERED WAGON 

Haven t I paid for it, mother?" 

"Why, yes, one way of speaking. But that ain t the 
way men are going to call theirselves paid. Until he s 
married, a man s powerful set on having a woman. If 
he don t, he thinks he ain t paid, it don t scarcely make 
no difference what the woman does. No, I don t reckon 
he ll forget. About Will Banion " 

"Don t let s mention him, mother. I m trying to 
forget him." 

"Yes? Where do you reckon he is now how far 
ahead?" 

"I don t know. I can t guess." 

The color on her cheek caught her mother s gaze. 

"Gee-whoa-haw ! Git along Buck and Star!" com 
manded the buxom dame to the swaying ox team that 
now followed the road with no real need of guidance. 
They took up the heat and burden of the desert. 



CHAPTER XXXVI 

TWO LOVE LETTERS 



THE COVERED WAGON 

What did they need, here at Fort Hall, on the Snake, 
third and last settlement of the two thousand miles of 
toil and danger and exhaustion ? They needed every 
thing. But one question first was asked by these travel- 
sick home-loving people : What was the news ? 

Isiews? How could there be news when almost a 
year would elapse before Fort Hall would know that 
on that very day in that very month of August, 1848 
Oregon was declared a territory of the Union ? 

News? How could there be news, when these men 
could not know for much more than a year that, as 
they outspanned here in the sage, Abraham Lincoln 
had just declined the governorship of the new territory 
of Oregon? Why? He did not know. Why had 
these men come here ? They did not know. 

But news the news! The families must have the 
news. And here always there was news! Just be 
yond branched off the trail to California. Here the 
supply trains from the Columbia brought news from 
the Oregon settlements. News? How slow it was, 
when it took a letter more than two years to go one 
way from edge to edge of the American continent! 

They told what news they knew the news of the 
Mormons of 1847 and 1848; the latest mutterings over 
fugitive negro slaves; the growing feeling that the 
South would one day follow the teachings of secession. 
They heard in payment the full news of the Whitman 
massacre in Oregon that winter; they gave back in 
turn their own news of the battles with the Sioux 

298 



TWO LOVE LETTERS 

and the Crows; the news of the new Army posts then 
moving west into the Plains to clear them for the 
whites. News? Why, yes, large news enough, and 
on either hand, so the trade was fair. 

But these matters of the outside world were not the 
only ones of interest, whether to the post traders or 
the newly arrived emigrants. Had others preceded 
them ? How many ? When ? Why, yes, a week earlier 
fifty wagons of one train, Missouri men, led by a man 
on a great black horse and an old man, a hunter. 
Banion? Yes, that was the name, and the scout was 
Jackson Bill Jackson, an old-time free trapper. Well, 
these two had split off for California, with six good 
pack mules, loaded light. The rest of the wagons had 
gone on to the Snake. But why these two had bought 
the last shovels and the only pick in all the supplies 
at old Fort Hall no man could tell. Crazy, of course; 
for who could pause to work on the trail with pick or 
shovel, with winter coming on at the Sierra crossing ? 

But not crazier than the other band who had come 
in three days ago, also ahead of the main train. Wood- 
hull? Yes, that was the name Woodhull. He had 
twelve or fifteen wagons with him, and had bought 
supplies for California, though they all had started 
for Oregon. Well, they soon would know more about 
the Mary s River and the Humboldt Desert. Plenty of 
bones, there, sure ! 

But even so, a third of the trains, these past five 
years, had split off at the Raft River and given up 

299 



THE COVERED WAGON 

hope of Oregon. California was much better easier 
to reach and better when you got there. The road 
to Oregon was horrible. The crossings of the Snake, 
especially the first crossing, to the north bank, was a 
gamble with death for the whole train. And beyond 
that, to the Blue Mountains, the trail was no trail at 
all. Few ever would get through, no one knew how 
many had perished. Three years ago Joe Meek had 
tried to find a better trail west of the Blues. All lost, 
so the story said. Why go to Oregon ? Nothing there 
when you got there. California, now, had been settled 
and proved a hundred years and more. Every year 
men came this far east to wait at Fort Hall for the 
emigrant trains and to persuade them to go to Cali 
fornia, not to Oregon. 

But what seemed strange to the men at the trading 
post was the fact that Banion had not stopped or asked 
a question. He appeared to have made up his mind 
long earlier, and beyond asking for shovels he had 
wanted nothing. The same way with Woodhull. He 
had come in fast and gone out fast, headed for the Raft 
River trail to California, the very next morning. Why ? 
Usually men stopped here at Fort Hall, rested, traded, 
got new stock, wanted to know about the trail ahead. 
Both Banion and Woodhull struck Fort Hall with their 
minds already made up. They did not talk. Was 
there any new word about the California trail, down 
at Bridger? Had a new route over the Humboldt 
Basin been found, or something of that sort? How 



TWO LOVE LETTERS 

could that be? If so, it must be rough and needing 
work in places, else why the need for so many shovels ? 

But maybe the emigrants themselves knew about 
these singular matters, or would when they had read 
their letters. Yes, of course, the Missouri movers had 
left a lot of letters, some for their folks back East next 
year maybe, but some for people in the train. Banion, 
Woodhull had they left any word ? Why, yes, both of 
them. The trader smiled. One each. To the same 
person, yes. Well, lucky girl! But that black horse 
now the Nez Perces would give a hundred ponies for 
him. But he wouldn t trade. A sour young man. But 
.Woodhull, now, the one with the wagons, talked more. 
And they each had left a letter for the same girl ! And 
this was Miss Molly Wingate? Well, the trader did 
not blame them ! These American girls ! They were 
like roses to the old traders, cast away this lifetime out 
here in the desert. 

News? Why, yes, no train ever came through that 
did not bring news and get news at old Fort Hall 
and so on. 

The inclosure of the old adobe fur-trading post was 
thronged by the men and women of the Wingate train. 
Molly Wingate at first was not among them. She sat, 
chin on her hand, on a wagon tongue in the encamp 
ment, looking out over the blue-gray desert to the red- 
and-gold glory of the sinking sun. Her mother came 
to her and placed in her lap the two letters, stood watch 
ing her. 

301 



THE COVERED WAGON 

"One from each," said she sententiously, and turned 
away. 

The girl s face paled as she opened the one she had 
felt sure would find her again, somewhere, somehow. 
It said : 

DEAREST : I write to Molly Wingate, because and 
only because I know she still is Molly Wingate. It 
might be kinder to us both if I did not write at all but 
went my way and left it all to time and silence. I found 
I could not. 

There will be no other woman, in all my life, for me. 
I cannot lay any vow on you. If I could, if I dared, 
I would say : "Wait for a year, while I pray for a year 
and God help us both." 

As you know, I now have taken your advice. Bridger 
and I are joined for the California adventure. If the 
gold is there, as Carson thinks, I may find more fortune 
than I have earned. More than I could earn you gave 
me when I was young. That was two months ago. 
Now I am old. 

Keep the news of the gold, if it can be kept, as long 
as you can. No doubt it will spread from other sources, 
but so far as I know- and thanks only to you I am 
well ahead of any other adventurer from the East this 
season, and, as you know, winter soon will seal the 
trails against followers. Next year, 1849, will be the 
big rush, if it all does not flatten. 

I can think of no one who can have shared our secret. 
Carson will be East by now, but he is a government 
man, and close of mouth with strangers. Bridger, I 
am sure for the odd reason that he worships you 

302 



TWO LOVE LETTERS 

will tell no one else, especially since he shares profits 
with me, if I survive and succeed. One doubt only 
rests in my mind. At his post I talked with Bridger, 
and he told me he had a few other bits of gold that 
Carson had given him at Laramie. He looked for them 
but had lost them. He suspected his Indian women, 
but he knew nothing. Of course, it would be one 
chance in a thousand that any one would know the 
women had these things, and even so no one could tell 
where the gold came from, because not even the women 
would know that; not even Bridger does, exactly; not 
even I myself. 

In general I am headed for the valley of the Sacra 
mento. I shall work north. Why ? Because that will 
be toward Oregon ! 

I write as though I expected to see you again, as 
though I had a right to expect or hope for that. It is 
only the dead young man, Will Banion, who unjustly 
and wrongly craves and calls out for the greatest of all 
fortune for a man who unfairly and wrongly writes 
you now, when he ought to remember your word, to 
go to a land far from you, to forget you and to live 
down his past. Ah, if I could! Ah, if I did not love 
you! 

But being perhaps about to die, away from you, the 
truth only must be between you and me. And the truth 
is I never shall forget you. The truth is I love you 
more than anything else and everything else in all the 
world. 

If I were in other ways what the man of your choice 
should be, would this truth have any weight with you? 
I do not know and I dare not ask. Reason does tell me 
how selfish it would be to ask you to hold in your heart 

303 



THE COVERED WAGON 

a memory and not a man. That is for me to do to 
have a memory, and not you. But my memory never 
can content me. 

It seems as though time had been invented so that, 
through all its aeons, our feet might run in search, one 
for the other to meet, where ? Well, we did meet for 
one instant in the uncounted ages, there on the prairie. 
Well, if ever you do see me again you shall say whether 
I have been, indeed, tried by fire, and whether it has left 
me clean whether I am a man and not a memory. 

That I perhaps have been a thief, stealing what never 
could be mine, is my great agony now. But I love you. 
Good-by. WILLIAM HAYS BANION. 

To MARGARET WINGATE, 

For t Hall, in Oregon. 

For an hour Molly sat, and the sun sank. The light 
of the whole world died. 

The other letter rested unopened until later, when she 
broke the seal and read by the light of a sagebrush fire, 
she frowned. Could it be that in the providence of 
God she once had been within one deliberate step of 
marrying Samuel Payson Woodhull? 

MY DARLING MOLLY : This I hope finds you well 
after the hard journey from Bridger to Hall. 

They call it Cruel to keep a Secret from a Woman. 
If so, I have been Cruel, though only in Poor pay for 
your Cruelty to me. I have had a Secret and this is 
it : I have left for California from this Point and shall 
not go to Oregon. I have learned of Gold in the State 



TWO LOVE LETTERS 

of California, and have departed to that State in the 
hope of early Success in Achieving a Fortune. So far 
as I know, I am the First to have this news of Gold, 
unless a certain man whose name and thought I 
execrate has by his Usual dishonesty fallen on the same 
information. If so, we two may meet where none can 
Interfear. 

I do not know how long I may be in California, but 
be Sure I go for but the one purpose of amassing a 
Fortune for the Woman I love. I never have given you 
Up and never shall. Your promise is mine and our En 
gagement never has been Broken, and the Mere fact 
that accident for the time Prevented our Nuptials by 
no means shall ever mean that we shall not find Happy 
Consumation of our most Cherished Desire at some 
later Time. 

I confidently Hope to arrive in Oregon a rich man 
not later than one or two years from Now. Wait for 
me. I am mad without you and shall count the Minutes 
until then when I can take you in my Arms and Kiss 
you a thousand Times. Forgive me ; I have not Hereto 
fore told you of these Plans, but it was best not and 
it was for You. Indeed you are so much in my 
Thought, my Darling, that each and Everything I do 
is for You and You only. 

No more at present then, but should Opportunity 
offer I shall get word to you addressed to Oregon City 
which your father said was his general Desstination, it 
being my own present purpose Ultimately to engage in 
the Practise of law either at that Point or the settlement 
of Portland which I understand is not far Below. With 
my Means, we should soon be Handsomely Settled. 

305 



THE COVERED WAGON 

May God guard you on the Way Thither and believe 
me, Darling, with more Love than I shall be ever able 
to Tell and a Thousand Kisses. 

Your Affianced and Impatient Lover, 

SAM L. PAYSON WOODHULL. 

The little sagebrush fire flared up brightly for an 
instant as Molly Wingate dropped one of her letters 
on the embers. 



CHAPTER XXXVII 

JIM BRIDGER FORGETS 

"\ "Y 7 HAT S wron g with the people, Cale?" de- 

X/V/ manded Jesse Wingate of his stout- 

* " hearted associate, Caleb Price. The sun 

was two hours high, but not all the breakfast fires were 

going. Men were moody, truculent, taciturn, as they 

went about their duties. 

Caleb Price bit into his yellow beard as he gazed 
down the irregular lines of the encampment. 

"Do you want me to tell you the truth, Jesse?" 

"Why, yes!" 

"Well, then, it seems to me the truth is that this 
train has lost focus." 

"I don t know what you mean." 

"I don t know that I m right don t know I can 
make my guess plain. Of course, every day we lay up, 
the whole train goes to pieces. The thing to do is to 
go a little way each day get into the habit. You can t 
wear out a road as long as this one by spurts it s 
steady does it. 

"But I don t think that s all. The main trouble is 
one that I don t like to hint to you, especially since none 
of us can help it." 

307 



THE COVERED WAGON 

"Out with it, Cale!" 

"The trouble is, the people don t think they ve got a 
leader." 

Jesse Wingate colored above his beard. 

"That s pretty hard," said he. 

"I know it s hard, but I guess it s the truth. You and 
I and Hall and Kelsey we re accepted as the chief 
council. But there are four of us, and all this country 
is new to all of us. The men now are like a bunch 
of cattle ready to stampede. They re nervous, ready 
to jump at anything. Wrong way, Jesse. They ought 
to be as steady as any of the trains that have gone 
across; 1843, when the Applegates crossed; 1846, when 
the Donners went every year since. Our folks well, 
if you ask me, I really think they re scared." 

"That s hard, Cale!" 

"Yes, hard for me to say to you, with your wife sad 
and your girl just now able to sit up yes, it s hard. 
Harder still since we both know it s your own personal 
matter this quarrel of those two young men, which 
I don t need explain. That s at the bottom of the train s 



uneasiness." 



"Well, they ve both gone now." 

"Yes, both. If half of the both were here now 
you d see the people quiet. Oh, you can t explain 
leadership, Jesse ! Some have it, most don t. He had. 
|We know he had. I don t suppose many of those folks 
ever figured it out, or do now. But they d fall in, not 
knowing why." 

308 



JIM BRIDGER FORGETS 

"As it is, I ll admit, there seems to be something in 
the air. They say birds know when an earthquake is 
coming. I feel uneasy myself, and don t know why. 
I started for Oregon. I don t know why. Do you 
suppose " 

The speculations of either man ceased as both caught 
sight of a little dust cloud far off across the sage, 
steadily advancing down the slope. 

"Hum! And who s that, Jesse? * commented the 
Ohio leader. "Get your big glass, Jesse." 

Wingate went to his wagon and returned with the 
great telescope he sometimes used, emblem of his 
authority. 

"One man, two packs," said he presently. "All 
alone so far as I can see. He s Western enough some 
post-trapper, I suppose. Rides like an Indian and 
dressed like one, but he s white, because he has a beard." 

"Let me see." Price took the glass. "He looks 
familiar! See if you don t think it s Jim Bridger. 
What s he coming for two hundred miles away from 
his own post?" 

It was Jim Bridger, as the next hour proved, and why 
he came he himself was willing to explain after he had 
eaten and smoked. 

"I camped twelve mile back," said he, "an* pushed in 
this mornin . I jest had a idee I d sornter over in 
here, see how ye was gittin along. Is your hull train 
made here?" 

309 



THE COVERED WAGON 

"No," Wingate answered. "The Missouri wagons 
are ahead." 

"Is Woodhull with ye?" 

"No." 

"Whar sheat?" 

"We don t know. Major Banion and Jackson, with 
a half dozen packs, no wagons, have given up the trip. 
They ve split off for California left their wagons." 

"An so has Sam Woodhull, huh?" 

"We suppose so. That s the word. He took about 
fifteen wagons with him. That s why we look cut 
down." 

"Rest of ye goin on through, huh?" 

"I am. I hope the others will." 

"Hit s three days on to whar the road leaves for 
Calif orny on the Raft River. Mebbe more ll leave 
ye thar, huh?" 

"We don t know. We hope not. I hear the fords 
are bad, especially the crossing of the Snake. This is 
a big river. My people are uneasy about it." 

"Yes, hit s bad enough, right often. Thar s falls in 
them canons hundreds o feet high, makin a roarin 
ye kin hear forty mile, mebbe. The big ford s erroun 
two hunderd mile ahead. That d make me four hun- 
derd mile away from home, an four hunderd to ride 
back agin huh? Is that fur enough fer a ol man, 
with snow comin on soon?" 

"You don t mean you d guide us on that far? What 
charge?" 

310 



JIM BRIDGER FORGETS 

"I come fer that, mainly. Charge ye? I won t 
charge ye nothin . What do ye s pose Jim Bridger d 
care ef ye all was drownded in the Snake? Ain t thar 
plenty more pilgrims whar ye all come from? Won t 
hey be out here next year, with money ter spend with 
my pardner Vasquez an me?" 

"Then how could we pay you?" 

"Ye kain t. Whar s Miss Molly?" 

"You want to see her?" 

"Yes, elsewhy dlask?" 

"Come," said Wingate, and led the way to Molly s 
ittle cart. The girl was startled when she saw the 
old scout, her wide eyes asking her question. 

"Mornin , Miss Molly!" he began, his leathery face 
wrinkling in a smile. "Ye didn t expect me, an I didn t 
neither. I m glad ye re about well o that arrer wound. 
I kerried a arrerhead under my shoulder blade sever l 
years oncet, ontel Preacher Whitman cut hit out. Hit 
felt right crawly all the time till then. 

"Yes, I jest sorntered up couple hundred mile this 
mornin , Miss Molly, ter see how ye all was gettin 
along one thing er another." 

Without much regard to others, he now led Molly 
a little apart and seated her on the sage beside him. 

"Will Banion and Bill Jackson has went on to Cali- 
iforny, Miss Molly," said he. "You know why." 

Mollie nodded. 

"Ye dorto! Ye told him." 

"Yes, I did." 



THE COVERED WAGON 

"I know. Him an me had a talk. Owin you an* 
me all he ll ever make, he allowed to pay nothin ! 
Which is, admittin he loves you, he don t take no 
advice, ter finish that weddin with another man sub- 
stertuted. No, says he, I kain t marry her, because I 
love her ! says he. Now, that s crazy. Somethin deep 
under that, Miss Molly." 

"Let s not talk about it, please." 

"All right. Let s talk erbout Sam Woodhull, huh?" 

"No!" 

"Then mebbe I d better be goin . I know you don t 
want ter talk erbout me!" His wrinkling smile said 
he had more to tell. 

"Miss Molly," said he at last, "I mout as well tell 
ye. Sam Woodhull is on the way atter Will Banion. 
He s like enough picked out a fine bunch o horse thiefs 
ter go erlong with him. He knows somethin erbout 
the gold I jest found out how. 

"Ye see, some men ain t above shinin up to a Injun 
womern even, such bein mebbe lonesome. Sam Wood- 
hull wasn t. He seed one o my fam ly wearin a shiny 
thing on her neck. Hit were a piece o gold Kit give 
me atter I give you mine. He trades the womern out o 
her necklace fer all o two pesos, Mexican. But she 
not talkin Missoury, an him not talkin Shoshone, 
they don t git fur on whar the gold come from. 

"She done told him she got hit from me, but he 
don t say a word ter me erbout that ; he s too wise. But 
she did tell him how Will Banion gits some mules an 

312 



JIM BRIDGER FORGETS 

packs o me. From then, plain guessin , he allows tea 
watch Banion. 

"My womern keeps say in not meanin no harm 
thet thar s plenty more necklaces in Cal for; because 
she s heard me an Banion say that word, Calif orny. 

"Slim guessin hit were, Miss Molly, but enough fer 
a man keen as Sam, that s not pertickler, neither. His 
plan was ter watch whar the packs went. He knowed 
ef Banion went ter Oregon he d not use packs. 

"Huh! Fine time he ll have, follerin that boy an* 
them mules with wagons ! I m easier when I think o 
that. Because, Miss Molly, ef them two does meet 
away from friends o both, thar s goin to be trouble, 
an trouble only o one kind." 

Again Molly Wingate nodded, pale and silent. 

"Well, a man has ter take keer o his own self," went 
on Bridger. "But that ain t all ner most what brung 
me here." 

"What was it then?" demanded Molly. "A long 
ride!" 

"Yeh. Eight hunderd mile out an back, ef I see 
ye across the Snake, like I allow I d better do. I m 
doin hit fer you, Miss Molly. I m ol an ye re young; 
I m a wild man an ye re one o God s wimern. But 
I had sLsters oncet white they was, like you. So the 
eight hunderd mile is light. But thet ain t why I come, 
neither, or all why, yit." 

"What is it then you want to tell me? Is it about 
him?" 

313 



THE COVERED WAGON 

Bridger nodded. "Yes. The only trouble is, I 
don t know what it is." 

"Now you re foolish!" 

"Shore I am ! Ef I had a few drinks o good likker 
mebbe I d be foolisher -er wiser. Leastways, I d be 
more like I was when I plumb forgot what twas Kit 
Carson said to me when we was spreein at Laramie. 
He had somethin ter do, somethin he was goin ter do, 
somethin I was ter do f er him, er mebee-so, next season, 
atter he got East an got things done he was goin ter 
do. Ye see, Kit s in the Army." 

"Was it about him?" 

"That s what I kain t tell. I jest sorntered over here 
a few hunderd mile ter ask ye what ye s pose it is that 
I ve plumb f ergot, me not havin the same kind o likker 
right now. 

"When me an Bill was havin a few afore he left 
I was right on the p int o rememberin what it was I 
was fergittin . I don t make no doubt, ef Kit an me 
er Bill an me could only meet an drink along day er 
so hit d all come plain to me. But all by myself, an 
sober, an not sociable with Dang Yore Eyes jest now, 
I sw ar, I kain t think o nothin . What s a girl s 
mind fer ef hit hain t to think o things?" 

"It was about him? It was about Kit Carson, 
something he had was it about the gold news?" 

"Mebbe. I don t know." 

"Did he Mr. Banion say anything?" 

"Mostly erbout you, an not much. He only said ef 



JIM BRIDGER FORGETS 

I ever got any mail to send it ter the Judge in the Wil 
lamette settlements." 

"He does expect to come back to Oregon !" 

"How can I tell ? My belief, he d better jump in the 
Percific Ocean. He s a damn fool, Miss Molly. Ef 
a man loves a womern, that s somethin that never orto 
wait. Yit he goes teeterin erroun like he had from 
now ter doomsday ter marry the girl which he loves too 
much fer ter marry her. That makes me sick. Yit he 
has resemblances ter a man, too, some ways faint 
resemblances, yes. Fer instance, I ll bet a gun flint 
these here people that s been hearin erbout the ford o 
the Snake d be a hull lot gladder ef they knew Will 
Banion was erlong. Huh?" 

Molly Wingate was looking far away, pondering 
many things. 

"Well, anyways, hit s even-Stephen fer them both 
two now," went on Bridger, "an* may God perteck the 
right an the devil take the hin mostest. They ll like 
enough both marry Injun wimern an settle down in 
Calif orny. Out o sight, out o mind. Love me little, 
love me long. Lord Lovell, he s mounted his milk- 
white steed. Farewell, sweet sir, partin is such sweet 
sorrer; like ol Cap n Bonneville uster say. But o all 
the messes any fool bunch o pilgrims ever got inter, 
this is the worstest, an hit couldn t be no worser. 

"Now, Miss Molly, ye re a plumb diserpintment tei, 
me. I jest drapped in ter see ef ye couldn t tell me 

315 



THE COVERED WAGON 

what hit was Kit done told me. But ye kain t. Whar 
is yer boasted superiorness as a womern? 

"But now, me, havin did forty mile a day over that 
country yan, I need sustenance, an* I m goin to see ef 
ol Cap Grant, the post trader, has ary bit o Hundson 
Bay rum left. Ef he has hit s mine, an* ef not, Jim 
Bridger s a liar, an* that I say deliberate. I m goin 
to try to git inter normal condition enough fer to 
remember a few plain, simple truths, seein as you all 
kain t. Way hit is, this train s in a hell of a fix, an 
hit couldn t be no worsen 1 



CHAPTER XXXVIII 

WHEN THE ROCKIES FELL 

THE news of Jim Bridget s arrival, and the 
swift rumor that he would serve as pilot for 
the train over the dangerous portion of the 
route ahead, spread an instantaneous feeling of relief 
throughout the hesitant encampment at this, the last 
touch with civilization east of the destination. He 
paused briefly at one or another wagon after he had 
made his own animals comfortable, laughing and jest 
ing in his own independent way, en route to fulfill his 
promise to himself regarding the trader s rum. 

In most ways the old scout s wide experience gave 
his dicta value. In one assertion, however, he was 
wide of the truth, or short of it. So far from things 
being as bad as they could be, the rapid events of that 
same morning proved that still more confusion was to 
ensue, and that speedily. 

There came riding into the post from the westward 
a little party of old-time mountain men, driving their 
near-spent mounts and packs at a speed unusual even 
in that land of vast distances. They were headed by 
a man well known in that vicinity who, though he had 
removed to California since the fur days, made annual 
pilgrimage to meet the emigrant trains at Fort Hall 

317 



THE COVERED WAGON 

in order to do proselyting for California, extolling the 
virtues of that land and picturing in direst fashion the 
horrors of the road thence to Oregon and the worth- 
lessness of Oregon if ever attained. "Old Greenwood" 
was the only name by which he was known. He was 
an old, old man, past eighty then, some said, with a 
deep blue eye, long white hair, a long and unkempt 
beard and a tongue of unparalleled profanity. He 
came in now, shouting and singing, as did the men of 
the mountains making the Rendezvous in the old days, 

"How, Greenwood ! What brings ye here so late ?" 
demanded his erstwhile crony, Jim Bridger, advancing, 
tin cup in hand, to meet him. "Light. Eat. Special, 
drink. How to the old times !" 

"Old times be damned !" exclaimed Old Greenwood. 
"These is new times." 

He lifted from above the chafed hips of his trem 
bling horse two sacks of something very heavy. 

"How much is this worth to ye?" he demanded of 
Bridger and the trader. "Have ye any shovels? 
Have ye any picks? Have ye flour, meal, sugar 
anything?" 

"Gold !" exclaimed Jim Bridger. "Kit Carson did 
not lie ! He never did !" 

And they did not know how much this was worth. 
They had no scales for raw gold, nor any system of 
valuation for it. And they had no shovels and no 
pickaxes; and since the families had come they now 
had very little flour at Fort Hall. 



WHEN THE ROCKIES FELL 

But now they had the news ! This was the greatest 
news that ever came to old Fort Hall the greatest 
news America knew for many a year, or the world 
the news of the great gold strikes in California. 

Old Greenwood suddenly broke out, "Have we left 
the mines an come this fur fer nothin ? I tell ye, 
we must have supplies ! A hundred dollars fer a pick ! 
A hundred dollars fer a shovel! A hundred dollars 
fer a pair o blankets ! An ounce fer a box of sardines, 
damn ye! An ounce fer half a pound o butter! A 
half ounce fer a aig! Anything ye like fer anything 
that s green! Three hundred fer a gallon o likker! 
A ounce for a box o pills ! Eight hundred fer a barrel 
o flour! Same fer pork, same fer sugar, same fer 
coffee ! Damn yer picayune hides, we ll show ye what 
prices is ! What s money to us ? We can git the pure 
gold that money s made out of, an* git it all we want! 
Hooray fer Californy!" 

He broke into song. His comrades roared in 
Homeric chorus with him, passing from one to another 
of the current ditties of the mines. They declared in 
unison, "Old Grimes is dead, that good old man!" 
Then they swung off to yet another classic ballad : 

There was an old woman who had three sons > 

Joshua, James and John! 
Josh got shot, and Jim got drowned, 
And John got lost and never was found, 
And that was the end of the woman s three sons, 

Joshua, James and John. 

Having finished the obsequies of the three sons, not 
319 



THE COVERED WAGON 

once but many times, they went forward with yet an 
other adaptation, following Old Greenwood, who stood 
with head thrown back and sang with tones of Bashan : 

Oh, then Susannah, 

Don t you cry fer me! * 

<. I m goiri to Calif ornuah, 

With my wash pan on my knee. 

The news of the gold was out. Bridger forgot his 
cups, forgot his friends, hurried to Molly Wingate s 
cart again. 

"Hit s true, Miss Molly!" he cried "truer n true 
hitself ! Yan s men just in from Californy, an they ve 
got two horseloads o gold, an they say hit s nothin 
they come out fer supplies. They tried to stop Will 
Banion they did trade some with Woodhull. They re 
nigh to Humboldt by now an goin hard. Miss Molly, 
gal, he s in ahead o the hull country, an got six months 
by hisself! Lord give him luck! Hit ll be winter 
afore the men back East kin know. He s one year 
ahead thanks ter yer lie ter me, an ter Kit, and Kit s 
ter his General. 

"Gold! Ye kain t hide hit an ye kain t find hit an 
ye kain t dig hit up an ye kain t keep hit down. Miss 
Molly, gal, I like ye, but how I do wish t ye was a man, 
so s you an me could celerbrate this here fitten !" 

"Listen!" said the girl. "Our bugle! That s 
Assembly!" 

"Yes, they ll all be there. Come when ye kin. 
Hell s a-poppin now!" 

The emigrants, indeed, deserted their wagons, gath- 
320 



WHEN THE ROCKIES FELL 

ering in front of the stockade, group after group. 
There was a strange scene on the far-flung, unknown, 
fateful borderlands of the country Senator McDuffie 
but now had not valued at five dollars for the whole. 
All these now, half-way across, and with the ice and 
snow of winter cutting off pursuit for a year, had the 
great news which did not reach publication in the press 
of New York and Baltimore until September of 1848. 
It did not attain notice of the floor of Congress until 
December fifth of that year, although this was news 
that went to the very foundation of this republic ; which, 
indeed, was to prove the means of the perpetuity of 
this republic. 

The drunken hunters in their ragged wools, their 
stained skins, the emigrants in their motley garb 
come this far they knew not why, since men will not 
admit of Destiny in nations also knew not that they 
were joying over the death of slavery and the life of 
the Union. They did not know that now, in a flash, 
all the old arguments and citations over slavery and 
secession were ancient and of no avail. The wagoners 
of the Sangamon, in Illinois, gathered here, roistering, 
did not know that they were dancing on the martyr s 
grave of Lincoln, or weaving him his crown, or buying 
shot and shell for him to win his grievous ordeal, 
brother against brother. Yet all those things were 
settled then, beyond that range of the Rockies which 
senators had said they would not spend a dollar to 
remove, "were they no more than ten feet high." 

321 



THE COVERED WAGON 

Even then the Rockies fell. Even then the great 
trains of the covered wagons, driven by men who never 
heard of Destiny, achieved their places on the unwritten 
scroll of Time. 

The newcomers from beyond the Sierras, crazed 
with their easy fortune, and now inflamed yet further 
by the fumes of alcohol, even magnified the truth, as 
it then seemed. They spent their dust by the handful. 
They asked for skillets, cooking pans, that they could 
wash more gold. They wanted saws, nails, axes, ham 
mers, picks. They said they would use the wagon 
boxes for Long Toms. They said if men would unite 
in companies to dam and divert the California rivers 
they would lay bare ledges of broken gold which would 
need only scooping up. The miners would pay any 
thing for labor in iron and wood. They would buy 
any food and all there was of it at a dollar a pound. 
They wanted pack horses to cross the Humboldt D^ert 
loaded. They would pay any price for men to handle 
horses for a fast and steady flight. 

Because, they said, there was no longer any use in 
measuring life by the old standards of value. Wages 
at four bits a day, a dollar a day, two dollars, the old 
prices why, no man would work for a half hour for 
such return when any minute he might lift twenty 
dollars in the hollow of an iron spoon. Old Green 
wood had panned his five hundred in a day. Men had 
taken two thousand three in a week ; in a week, men, 
not in a year! There could be no wage scale at all. 

322 






WHEN THE ROCKIES FELL 

Labor was a thing gone by. Wealth, success, ease, 
luxury was at hand for the taking. What a man had 
dreamed for himself he now could have. He could 
overleap all the confining limits of his life, and even 
if weak, witless, ignorant or in despair, throw all that 
aside in one vast bound into attainment and enjoyment. 

Rich ? Why should any man remain poor ? Work ? 
Why should work be known, save the labor of picking 
up pure gold done, finished, delivered at hand to wait 
ing and weary humanity? Human cravings could no 
longer exist. Human disappointment was a thing no 
more to be known. In California, just yonder, was 
gold, gold, gold ! Do you mind can you think of it, 
men? Gold, gold, gold! The sun had arisen at last 
on the millennial day! Now might man be happy 
and grieve no more forever ! 

Arguments such as these did not lack and were not 
needed with the emigrants. It took but a leap to the 
last conclusion. Go to California? Why should they 
not go? Had it not been foreordained that they should 
get the news here, before it was too late? Fifty miles 
more and they had lost it. A week earlier and they 
would not have known it for a year. Go to Oregon 
and plow? Why not go to California and dig in a 
day what a plow would earn in a year? 

Call it stubbornness or steadfastness, at least Jesse 
Wingate s strength of resolution now became manifest. 
At first almost alone, he stayed the stampede by holding 
for Oregon in the council with his captains. 
323 



THE COVERED WAGON 

They stood near the Wingate wagon, the same which 
had carried him into Indiana, thence into Illinois, now 
this far on the long way to Oregon. Old and gray was 
Mary Ann, as he called his wagon, by now, the paint 
ground from felly, spoke and hub, the sides dust cov 
ered, the tilt disfigured and discolored. He gazed at 
the time-worn, sturdy frame with something akin to 
affection. The spokes were wedged to hold them tight, 
the rims were bound with hide, worn away at the edges 
where the tire gave no covering, the tires had been reset 
again and again. He shook the nearest wheel to test it. 

"Yes," said he, "we all show wear. But I see little 
use in changing a plan once made in a man s best sober 
judgment. For me, I don t think all the world has 
been changed overnight." 

"Oh, well, now," demanded Kelsey, his nomad Ken 
tucky blood dominant, "what use holding to any plan 
just for sake of doing it? If something better comes, 
why not take it ? That stands to reason. We all came 
out here to better ourselves. These men have done in 
six months what you and I might not do in ten years 
in Oregon." 

"They d guide us through to California, too," he 
went on. "We ve no guide to Oregon." 

Even Caleb Price nodded. 

"They all say that the part from here on is the worst 
drier and drier, and in places very rough. And the 
two fords of the Snake well, I for one wish we were 
across them. That s a big river, and a bad one. And 

324 






WHEN THE ROCKIES FELL 

if we crossed the Blue Mountains all right, there s the 
Cascades, worse than the Blues, and no known trail for 
wagons." 

"I may have to leave my wagons," said Jesse Win- 
gate, "but if I do I aim to leave them as close to the 
Willamette Valley as I can. I came out to farm. I 
don t know California. How about you, Hall? What 
do your neighbors say?" 

"Much as Price says. They re worn out and scared. 
They re been talking about the Snake crossings ever 
since we left the Soda Springs. Half want to switch 
for California. A good many others would like to go 
back home if they thought they d ever get there!" 

"But we ve got to decide," urged Wingate. "Can 
we count on thirty wagons to go through? Others 
have got through in a season, and so can we if we stick. 
Price?" 

His hesitant glance at his staunch trail friend s face 
decided the latter. 

"I ll stick for Oregon !" said Caleb Price. "I\e got 
my wife and children along. I want my donation 
lands." 

"You, Hall?" 

"I ll go with you," said Hall, the third column leader, 
slowly. "Like to try a whirl in California, but if 
there s so much gold there next year ll do. I want my 
lands." 

"Why, there s almost ten thousand people in Oregon 
by now, or will be next year," argued Wingate. "It 

325 



THE COVERED WAGON 

may get to be a territory naybe not a state, but any 
ways a territory, some time. And it s free ! Not like 
Texas and all this new Mexican land just coming in 
by the treaty. What do you say, finally, Kelsey?" 

The latter chewed tobacco for some time. 

"You put it to me hard to answer," said he. "Any 
one of us d like to try California. It will open faster 
than Oregon if all this gold news is true. Maybe ten 
thousand people will come out next year, for all we 
know." 

"Yes, with picks and shovels," said Jesse Wingate. 
"Did ever you see pick or shovel build a country ? Did 
ever you see steel traps make or hold one? Oregon s 
ours because we went out five years ago with wagons 
and plows we all know that. No, friends, waterways 
never held a country. No path ever held on a river 
that s for exploring, not for farming. To hold a coun 
try you need wheels, you need a plow. I m for 
Oregon !" 

"You put it strong," admitted Kelsey. "But the 
only thing that holds me back from California is the 
promise we four made to each other when we started. 
Our train s fallen apart little by little. I m ole Kain- 
tucky. We don t rue back, and we keep our word. 
We four said we d go through. I ll stand by that. 
I m a man of my word." 

Imperiously as though he were Pizarro s self, he 
drew a line in the dust of the trail. 

"Who s for Oregon?" he shouted; again demanded, 
326 



WHEN THE ROCKIES FELL 

as silence fell, "This side for Oregon!" And Kelsey 
of Kentucky, man of his word, turned the stampede 
definitely. 

Wingate, his three friends; a little group, augment 
ing, crossed for Oregon. The women and the children 
stood aloof, sunbonneted women, brown, some with 
new-born trail babes in arms, silent as they always 
stood. Across from the Oregon band stood almost as 
many men, for the most part unmarried, who had not 
given hostages to fortune, and were resolved for Cali 
fornia. A cheer arose from these. 

"Who wants my plow ?" demanded a stalwart farmer 
from Indiana, more than fifteen hundred miles from 
his last home. "I brung her this fur into this damned 
desert. I ll trade her fer a shovel and make one more 
try fer my folks back home." 

He loosed the wires which had bound the implement 
to the tail of his wagon all these weary miles. It fell 
to the ground and he left it there. 

"Do some thinking, men, before you count your gold 
and drop your plow. Gold don t last, but the soil does. 
Ahead of you is the Humboldt Desert. There s no 
good wagon road over the mountains if you get that 
far. The road down Mary s River is a real gamble 
with death. Men can go through and make roads 
yes; but where are the women and the children to stay? 
Think twice, men, and more than twice!" Wingate 
spoke solemnly. 

327 



THE COVERED WAGON 

"Roll out! Roll out!" mocked the man who had 
abandoned his plow. "This way for Californy !" 

The council ended in turmoil, where hitherto had 
been no more than a sedate daily system. Routine, 
become custom, gave way to restless movement, excited 
argument. Of all these hundreds now encamped on 
the sandy sagebrush plain in the high desert there was 
not an individual who was not affected in one way or 
another by the news from California, and in most cases 
it required some sort of a personal decision, made prac 
tically upon the moment. Men argued with their wives 
heatedly; women gathered in groups, talking, weeping. 
The stoic calm of the trail was swept away in a sort of 
hysteria which seemed to upset all their world and all 
its old values. 

Whether for Oregon or California, a revolution in 
prices was worked overnight for every purchase of 
supplies. Flour, horses, tools, everything merchant 
able, doubled and more than doubled. Some fifty 
wagons in all now formed train for California, which, 
in addition to the long line of pack animals, left the 
Sangamon caravan, so called, at best little more than 
half what it had been the day before. The men with 
out families made up most of the California train. 

The agents for California, by force of habit, still 
went among the wagons and urged the old arguments 
against Oregon the savage tribes on ahead, the for 
bidding desolation of the land, the vast and dangerous 
rivers, the certainty of starvation on the way, the risk 

328 



WHEN THE ROCKIES FELL 

of arriving after winter had set in on the Cascade 
Range all matters of which they themselves spoke by 
hearsay. All the great West was then unknown. 
Moreover, Fort Hall was a natural division point, as 
quite often a third of the wagons of a train might be 
bound for California even before the discovery of gold. 
But Wingate and his associates felt that the Oregon 
immigration for that year, even handicapped as now, 
ultimately would run into thousands. 

It was mid-morning of the next blazing day when 
he beckoned his men to him. 

"Lets pull out, he said. "Why wait for the Cali- 
f ornians to move ? Bridger will go with us across the 
Snake. Twill only be the worse the longer we lie here, 
and our wagons are two weeks late now." 

The others agreed. But there was now little train 
organization. The old cheery call, "Catch up! Catch 
up !" was not heard. The group, the family, the indi 
vidual now began to show again. True, after their 
leaders came, one after another, rattling, faded wagons, 
until the dusty trail that led out across the sage flats 
[had a tenancy stretched out for over a half mile, with 
yet other vehicles falling in behind ; but silent and grim 
[were young and old now over this last defection. 

"About that old man Greenwood," said Molly Win- 
[gate to- her daughter as they sat on the same jolting 
seat, "I don t know about him. I ve saw elders in the 
church with whiskers as long and white as his n, but 
[you d better watch your hog pen. For me, I believe 

329 



THE COVERED WAGON 

he s a liar. It like enough is true he used to live back 
in the Rockies in Injun times, and he may be eighty- 
five years old, as he says, and California may have a 
wonderful climate, the way he says; but some things 
I can t believe. 

"He says, now, he knows a man out in California, 
a Spanish man, who was two hundred and fifty years 
old, and he had quite a lot of money, gold and silver, 
he d dug out of the mountains. Greenwood says he s 
known of gold and silver for years, himself. Well, 
this Spanish man had relatives that wanted his prop 
erty, and he d made a will and left it to them; but he 
wouldn t die, the climate was so good. So his folks 
allowed maybe if they sent him to Spain on a journey 
he d die and then they d get the property legal. So he 
went, and he did die; but he left orders for his body 
to be sent back to California to be buried. So when 
his body came they buried him in California, the way 
he asked so Greenwood says. 

"But did they get his property? Not at all! The 
old Spanish man, almost as soon as he was buried in 
California dirt, he came to life again! He s alive 
to-day out there, and this man Greenwood says he s a 
neighbor of his and he knows him well ! Of course, 
if that s true you can believe almost anything about 
what a wonderful country California is. But for one, 
I ain t right sure. Maybe not everybody who goes to 
California is going to find a mountain of gold, or live 
to be three hundred years old ! 

330 



WHEN THE ROCKIES FELL 

"But to think, Molly ! Here you knew all this away 
back to Laramie! Well, if the hoorah had started 
there stead of here there d be dead people now back 
of us more n there is now. That old man Bridger told 
you &vhy? And how could you keep the secret?" 

"It was for Will," said Molly simply. "I had given 
him up. I told him to go to California and forget me, 
and to live things down. Don t chide me any more. 
I tried to marry the man you wanted me to marry. 
I m tired. I m going to Oregon to forget. I ll 
teach school. I ll never, never marry that s settled 
at last." 

"You got a letter from Sam Woodhull too." 

"Yes, I did." 

"Huh! Does he call that settled? Is he going to 
California to forget you and live things down?" 

"He says not. I don t care what he says." 

"He ll be back." 

"Spare his journey! It will do him no good. The 
Indian did me a kindness, I tell you!" 

"Well, anyways, they re both off on the same journey 
now, and who knows what or which ? They both may 
be three hundred years old before they find a mountain 
of gold. But to think I had your chunk of gold 
right in my own hands, but didn t know it ! The same 
gold my mother s wedding ring was made of, that was 
mine. It s right thin now, child. You could of made 
a dozen out of that lump, like enough." 

"I ll never need one, mother," said Molly Wingate. 
331 



THE COVERED WAGON 

The girl, weeping, threw her arms about her mother s 
neck. "You ask why I kept the secret, even then. 
He kissed me, mother and he was a thief !" 

"Yes, I know. A man he just steals a girl s heart 
out through her lips. Yore paw done that way with 
me once. Git up, Dan! You, Daisy! 

"And from that time on," she added laughing, "I 
been trying to forget him and to live him down !" 



CHAPTER XXXIX 

THE CROSSING 

THREE days out from Fort Hall the vanguard 
of the remnant of the train, less than a fourth 
of the original number, saw leaning against 
a gnarled sagebrush a box lid which had scrawled upon 
it in straggling letters one word "California." Here 
now were to part the pick and the plow. 

Jim Bridger, sitting his gaunt horse, rifle across 
saddle horn, halted for the head of the train to pull 
even with him. 

"This here s Cassia Creek," said he. "Yan s the 
trail down Raft River ter the Humboldt and acrost the 
Sierrys ter Calif orny. A long, dry jump hit is, by all 
accounts. The Oregon road goes on down the Snake. 
Hit s longer, if not so dry." 

Small invitation qffered in the physical aspect of 
either path. The journey had become interminable. 
The unspeakable monotony, whose only variant was 
peril, had smothered the spark of hope and interest. 
The allurement of mystery had wholly lost its charm. 

The train halted for some hours. Once more dis 
cussion rose. 

"Last chance for Californy, men," said old Jim 
333 



THE COVERED WAGON 

Bridger calmly. "Do-ee see the tracks ? Here s Green 
wood come in. Yan s where Woodhull s wagons left 
the road. Below that, one side, is the tracks o Banion s 
mules." 

"I wonder," he added, "why thar hain t ary letter 
left fer none o us here at the forks o the road." 

He did not know that, left in a tin at the foot of the 
board sign certain days earlier, there had rested a letter 
addressed to Miss Molly Wingate. It never was to 
reach her. Sam Woodhull knew the reason why. 
Having opened it and read it, he had possessed himself 
of exacter knowledge than ever before of the relations 
of Banion and Molly Wingate. Bitter as had been 
his hatred before, it now was venomous. He lived 
thenceforth no more in hope of gold than of revenge. 

The decision for or against California was some 
thing for serious weighing now at the last hour, and 
it affected the fortune and the future of every man, 
woman and child in all the train. Never a furrow was 
plowed in early Oregon but ran in bones and blood; 
and never a dollar was dug in gold in California or 
ever gained in gold by any man which did not cost 
two in something else but gold. 

Twelve wagons pulled out of the trail silently, one 
after another, and took the winding trail that led to 
the left, to the west and south. Others watched them, 
tears in their eyes, for some were friends. 

Alone on her cart seat, here at the fateful parting 
of the ways, Molly Wingate sat with a letter clasped 

334 



THE CROSSING 

in her hand, frank tears standing in her eyes. It was 
no new letter, but an old one. She pressed the pages 
to her heart, to her lips, held them out at arm s length 
before her in the direction of the far land which some 
where held its secrets. 

"Oh, God keep you, Will !" she said in her heart, and 
almost audibly. "Oh, God give you fortune, Will, and 
bring you back to me !" 

But the Oregon wagons closed up once more and 
held their way, the stop not being beyond one camp, 
for Bridger urged haste. 

The caravan course now lay along the great valley 
of the Snake. The giant deeds of the river in its 
canons they could only guess. They heard of tremen 
dous falls, of gorges through which no boat could pass, 
vague rumors of days of earlier exploration; but they 
kept to the high plateaus, dipping down to the crossings 
of many sharp streams, which in the first month of 
their journey they would have called impassable. It 
all took time. They were averaging now not twenty 
miles daily, but no more than half that, and the season 
was advancing. It was fall. Back home the wheat 
would be in stack, the edges of the corn would be seared 
with frost. 

The vast abundance of game they had found all along 
now lacked. Some rabbits, a few sage grouse, nightly 
coyotes that made all. The savages who now hung 
on their flanks lacked the stature and the brave trap 
pings of the buffalo plainsmen. They lived on horse 

335 



THE COVERED WAGON 

meat and salmon, so the rumor came. Now their 
environment took hold of the Pacific. They had left 
the East wholly behind. 

On the salmon run they could count on food, not so 
good as the buffalo, but better than bacon grown soft 
and rusty. Changing, accepting, adjusting, prevailing, 
the wagons went on, day after day, fifty miles, a hun 
dred, two hundred. But always a vague uneasiness 
pervaded. The crossing of the Snake lay on ahead. 
The moody river had cast upon them a feeling of awe. 
Around the sage fires at night the families talked of 
little else but the ford of the Snake, two days beyond 
the Salmon Falls. 

It was morning when the wagons, well drawn to 
gether now, at last turned down the precipitous decline 
which took them from the high plateau to the water 
level. Here a halt was called. Bridger took full 
charge. The formidable enterprise confronting them 
was one of the real dangers of the road. 

The strong green waters of the great river were 
divided at this ancient ford by two midstream islands, 
which accounted for the selection of the spot for the 
daring essay of a bridgeless and boatless crossing. 
There was something mockingly relentless in the strong 
rippling current, which cut off more than a guess at 
the actual depth. There was no ferry, no boat nor 
means of making one. It was not even possible to 
shore up the wagon beds so they might be dry. One 

336 



THE CROSSING 

thing sure was that if ever a wagon was swept below 
the crossing there could be no hope for it. 

But others had crossed here, and even now a certain 
rough chart existed, handed down from these. Time 
now for a leader, and men now were thankful for the 
presence of a man who had seen this crossing made. 

The old scout held back the company leaders and 
rode into the stream alone, step by step, scanning the 
bottom. He found it firm. He saw wheel marks 
on the first island. His horse, ears ahead, saw them 
also, and staggeringly felt out the way. Belly-deep 
and passable yes. 

Bridger turned and moved a wide arm. The fore 
most wagons came on to the edge. 

The men now mounted the wagon seats, two to each 
wagon. Flankers drove up the loose cattle, ready for 
their turn later. Men rode on each side the lead yoke 
of oxen to hold them steady on their footing, Wingate, 
Price, Kelsey and Hall, bold men and well mounted, 
taking this work on themselves. 

The plunge once made, they got to the first island, 
all of them, without trouble. But a dizzying flood lay 
on ahead to the second wheel-marked island in the river. 
To look at the rapid surface was to lose all sense of 
direction. But again the gaunt horse of the scout fell 
out, the riders waded in, their devoted saddle animals 
trembling beneath them. Bridger, student of fast 
fords, followed the bar upstream, angling with it, till 
a deep channel offered between him and the island. 

337 



THE COVERED WAGON 

Unable to evade this, he drove into it, and his gallant 
mount breasted up and held its feet all the way across. 

The thing could be done! Jim Bridger calmly 
turned and waved to the wagons to come on from the 
first island. 

"Keep them jest whar we was!" he called back to 
Hall and Kelsey, who had not passed the last stiff 
water. "Put the heavy cattle in fust! Hit maybe 
won t swim them. If the stuff gets wet we kain t help 
that. Tell the wimern hit s all right." 

He saw his friends turn back, their horses, deep in 
the flood, plunging through water broken by their 
knees; saw the first wagons lead off and crawl out 
upstream, slowly and safely, till within reach of his 
voice. Molly now was in the main wagon, and her 
brother Jed was driving. 

Between the lines of wading horsemen the draft 
oxen advanced, following the wagons, strung out, but 
all holding their footing in the green water that broke 
white on the upper side of the wagons. A vast mur 
muring roar came up from the water thus retarded. 

They made their way to the edge of the deep channel, 
where the cattle stood, breasts submerged. 

Bridger rose in his stirrups and shouted, "Git in 
thar ! Come on through !" 

They plunged, wallowed, staggered; but the lead 
yokes saw where the ford climbed the bank, made for 
it, caught footing, dragged the others through! 

Wagon after wagon made it safe. It was desperate, 

338 



THE CROSSING 

but, being done, these matter-of-fact folk wasted no 
time in imaginings of what might have happened. 
They were safe, and the ford thus far was established 
so that the others need not fear. 

But on ahead lay what they all knew was the real 
danger the last channel, three hundred yards of rac 
ing, heavy water which apparently no sane man ever 
would have faced. But there were wheel marks on 
the farther shore. Here ran the road to Oregon. 

The dauntless old scout rode in again, alone, bending 
to study the water and the footing. A gravel bar led 
off for a couple of rods, flanked by deep potholes. Ten 
rods out the bar turned. He followed it up, foot by 
foot, for twenty rods, quartering. Then he struck out 
for the shore. 

The bottom was hard, yes; but the bar was very 
crooked, with swimming water on either hand, with 
potholes ten feet deep and more all alongside. And 
worst of all, there was a vast sweep of heavy water 
below the ford, which meant destruction and death for 
any wagon carried down. Well had the crossing of 
the Snake earned its sinister reputation. Courage and 
care alone could give any man safe-conduct here. 

The women and children, crying, sat in the wagons, 
watching Bridger retrace the ford. Once his stum 
bling horse swam, but caught footing. He joined 
them, very serious. 

fordin men," said he, "but she s mean, she 
an. Double up all the teams, yoke in every 
339 



THE COVERED WAGON 

loose ox an put six yoke on each wagon, er they ll 
get swep down, shore s hell. Some o them will hold 
the others ef we have enough. I ll go ahead, an I 
want riders all along the teams, above and below, ter 
hold them ter the line. Hit can be did hit s wicked 
water, but hit can be did. Don t wait always keep 
things movinV 

By this time the island was packed with the loose 
cattle, which had followed the wagons, much of the 
time swimming. They were lowing moaningly, in 
terror a gruesome thing to hear. 

The leader called to Price s oldest boy, driving 
Molly s cart, "Tie on behind the big wagon with a long 
rope, an don t drive in tell you see the fust two yoke 
ahead holdin . Then they ll drag you through anyhow. 
Hang onto the cart whatever happens, but if you do get 
in, keep upstream of any animile that s swimmin ." 

"All set, men? Come ahead!" 

He led off again at last, after the teams were doubled 
and the loads had been piled high as possible to keep 
them dry. Ten wagons were left behind, it being 
needful to drive back, over the roaring channel, some 
of the doubled heavy teams for them. 

They made it well, foot by foot, the cattle sometimes 
swimming gently, confidently, as the line curved down 
under the heavy current, but always enough holding 
to keep the team safe. The horsemen rode alongside, 
exhorting, assuring. It was a vast relief when at the 

340 



THE CROSSING 

last gravel stretch they saw the wet backs of the oxen 
rise high once more. 

"I ll go back, Jesse," said Kelsey, the man who had 
wanted to go to California. "I know her now." 

"I ll go with you," added young Jed Wingate, climb 
ing down from his wagon seat and demanding his 
saddle horse, which he mounted bare-backed. 

It was they two who drove and led the spare yokes 
back to repeat the crossing with the remaining wagons. 
Those on the bank watched them anxiously, for they 
drove straighter across to save time, and were carried 
below the trail on the island. But they came out 
laughing, and the oxen were rounded up once more 
and doubled in, so that the last of the train was ready. 

"That s a fine mare of Kelsey s," said Wingate to 
Caleb Price, who with him was watching the daring 
Kentuckian at his work on the downstream and more 
dangerous side of the linked teams. "She ll go any 
where." 

Price nodded, anxiously regarding the Laboring ad 
vance of the last wagons. 

"Too light," said he. "I started with a ton and a 
half on the National Pike across Ohio and Indiana. I 
doubt if we average five hundred now. They ford 
light." 

"Look !" he cried suddenly, and pointed. 

They all ran to the brink. The horsemen were try 
ing to stay the drift of the line of cattle. They had 

341 



THE COVERED WAGON 

worked low and missed footing. Many were swim 
ming the wagons were afloat ! 

The tired lead cattle had not been able to withstand 
the pressure of the heavy water a second time. They 
were off the ford ! 

But the riders from the shore, led by Jim Bridger, 
got to them, caught a rope around a horn, dragged 
them into line, dragged the whole gaunt team to the 
edge and saved the day for the lead wagon. The others 
caught and held their footing, labored through. 

But a shout arose. Persons ran down the bank, 
pointing. A hundred yards below the ford, in the full 
current of the Snake, the lean head of Kelsey s mare 
was flat, swimming hard and steadily, being swept 
downstream in a current which swung off shore below 
the ford. 

"He s all right !" called Jed, wet to the neck, sitting 
his own wet mount, safe ashore at last. "He s swim 
ming too. They ll make it, sure! Come onJ" 

He started off at a gallop downstream along the 
shore, his eyes fixed on the two black objects, now 
steadily losing distance out beyond. But old Jim 
Bridger put his hands across his eyes and turned away 
his face. He knew ! 

It was now plain to all that yonder a gallant man 
and a gallant horse were making a fight for life. The 
grim river had them in its grip at last. 

In a moment the tremendous power of the heavy 
water had swept Kelsey and his horse far below the 

342 



THE CROSSING 

ford. The current there was swifter, noisier, as 
though exultant in the success of the scheme the river 
all along had proposed. 

As to the victims, the tragic struggle went on in 
silence. If the man called, no one could hear him 
above the rush and roar of the waters. None long 
had any hope as they saw the white rollers bury the 
two heads, of the horse and the man, while the set of 
the current steadily carried them away from the shore. 
It was only a miracle that the two bobbing black dots 
again and again came into view. 

They could see the mare s muzzle flat, extended 
toward the shore; back of it, upstream, the head of 
the man. Whichever brain had decided, it was evident 
that the animal was staking life to reach the shore from 
which it had been swept away. 

Far out in midstream some conformation of the 
bottom turned the current once more in a long slant 
shoreward. A murmur, a sob of hundreds of ob 
servers packed along the shore broke out as the two 
dots came closer, far below. More than a quarter of a 
mile downstream a sand point made out, offering a 
sort of beach where for some space a landing might 
be made. Could the gallant mare make this point? 
Men clenched their hands. Women began to sob, to 
moan gently. 

When with a shout Jed Wingate turned his horse 
and set off at top speed down the shore some followed 
him. The horses and oxen, left alone, fell into con- 

343 



THE COVERED WAGON 

fusion, the wagons tangled. One or two teams made 
off at a run into the desert. But these things were 
nothing. 

Those behind hoped Jed would not try any rescue 
in that flood. Molly stood wringing her hands. The 
boy s mother began praying audibly. The voice of 
Jim Bridger rose in an Indian chant. It was for the 
dead! 

They saw the gallant mare plunge up, back and 
shoulders and body rising as her feet found bottom a 
few yards out from shore. She stood free of the 
water, safe on the bar; stood still, looking back of her 
and down. But no man rose to his height beside her. 
There was only one figure on the bar. 

They saw Jed fling off; saw him run and stoop, 
lifting something long and heavy from the water. 
Then the mare stumbled away. At length she lay 
down quietly. She never rose. 

"She was standing right here," said Jed as the others 
came. "He had hold of the reins so tight I couldn t 
hardly open his hand. He must have been dead before 
the mare hit bottom. He was laying all under water, 
hanging to the reins, and that was all that kept him 
from washing on down." 

They made some rude and unskilled attempt at resus 
citation, but had neither knowledge nor confidence. 
Perhaps somewhere out yonder the strain had been too 
great; perhaps the sheer terror had broken the heart 
of both man and horse. The mare suddenly began to 

344 



THE CROSSING 

tremble as she lay, her nostrils shivering as though in 
fright. And she died, after bringing in the dead man 
whose hand still gripped her rein. 

They buried Kelsey of Kentucky few knew him 
otherwise on a hillock by the road at the first fording 
place of the Snake. They broke out the top board of 
another tail gate, and with a hot iron burned in one 
more record of the road : 

"Rob t. Kelsey, Ky. Drowned Sept. 7, 1848. A 
Brave Man." 

The sand long ago cut out the lettering, and long 
ago the ford passed to a ferry. But there lay, for a 
long time known, Kelsey of Kentucky, a brave man, 
who kept his promise and did not rue back, but who 
never saw either California or Oregon. 

"Catch up the stock, men," said Jesse Wingate dully, 
after a time. "Let s leave this place." 

Loads were repacked, broken gear adjusted. Inside 
the hour the silent gray wagon train held on, leaving 
the waters to give shriving. The voice of the river 
rose and fell mournfully behind them in the changing 
airs. 

"I knowed hit!" said old Jim Bridger, now falling 
back from the lead and breaking off his Indian dirge. 
I knowed all along the Snake d take somebody she 
oes every time. This mornin I seed two ravens that 
flew acrost the trail ahead. Yesterday I seed a rabbit 
ttin squar in the trail. I thought hit was me the 
345 



THE COVERED WAGON 

river wanted, but she s done took a younger an a 
better man." 

"Man, man," exclaimed stout-hearted Molly Win- 
gate, "what for kind of a country have you brought 
us women to? One more thing like that and my 
nerve s gone. Tell me, is this the last bad river? 
And when will we get to Oregon?" 

"Don t be a-skeered, ma am," rejoined Bridger. 
"A accident kin happen anywheres. Hit s a month on 
ter Oregon, whar ye re headed. Some fords on ahead, 
yes ; we got ter cross back ter the south side the Snake 
again." 

"But you ll go on with us, won t you?" demanded 
young Molly Wingate. 

They had halted to breathe the cattle at the foot of 
lava dust slope. Bridger looked at the young girl for 
a time in silence. 

"I m off my country, Miss Molly," said he. "Be- 
yant the second ford, at Fort Boise, I ain t never been. 
I done aimed ter turn back here an git back home afore 
the winter come. Ain t I did enough fer ye?" 

But he hesitated. There was a kindly light on the 
worn old face, in the sunken blue eye. 

"Ye want me ter go on, Miss Molly?" 

"If you could it would be a comfort to me, a protec 
tion to us all." 

"Is hit so! Miss Molly, ye kin talk a ol -time man 
out n his last pelt! But sence ye do want me, I ll 
sornter along a leetle ways furtherer with ye. Many 

346 



THE CROSSING 

a good fight is spoiled by wonderin how hit s goin 
to come out. An many a long trail s lost by wonderin 
whar hit runs. I hain t never yit been plumb to Cali- 
forny er Oregon. But ef ye say I must, Miss Molly, 
why I must ; an ef I must, why here goes ! I reckon 
my wimern kin keep my fire goin ontel I git back 
next year." 



CHAPTER XL 

OREGON ! OREGON ! 

THE freakish resolves of the old-time trapper 
at least remained unchanged for many days, 
but at last one evening he came to Molly s 
wagon, his face grim and sad. 

"Miss Molly," he said, "I m come to say good-by 
now. Hit s for keeps." 

"No? Then why? You are like an old friend to 
me. What don t I owe to you?" 

"Ye don t owe nothin ter me yit, Miss Molly. But 
I want ye ter think kindly o old Jim Bridger when he s 
gone. I allow the kindest thing I kin do fer ye is ter 
bring Will Banion ter ye." 

"You are a good man, James Bridger," said Molly 
Wingate. "But then?" 

"Ye see, Miss Molly, I had six quarts o rum I got at 
Boise. Some folks says rum is wrong. Hit ain t. 
I ll tell ye why. Last night I dr inked up my lastest 
bottle o that Hundson s Bay rum. Hit war right good 
rum, an ez I lay lookin up at the stars, all ter oncet 
hit come ter me that I was jest exactly, no more an no 
less, jest ter the ha r, ez drunk I was on the leetle 
spree with Kit at Laramie. Warn t that fine? An 

348 



OREGON! OREGON! 

warn t hit useful? Nach erl, bein jest even up, I done 
thought o everything I been fergettin . Hit all come 
ter me ez plain ez a streak o lightnin . What it was 
Kit Carson told me I know now, but no one else shall 
know. No, not even you, Miss Molly. I kain t tell 
ye, so don t ask. 

"Now I m goin on a long journey, an* a resky one; 
I kain t tell ye no more. I reckon I ll never see ye 
agin. So good-by." 

With a swift grasp of his hand he caught the dusty 
edge of the white woman s skirt to his bearded lips. 

"But, James " 

Suddenly she reached out a hand. He was gone. 

******* 

One winter day, rattling over the icy fords of the 
road winding down the Sandy from the white Cascades, 
crossing the Clackamas, threading the intervening 
fringe of forest, there broke into the clearing at Oregon 
City the head of the wagon train of 1848. A fourth 
of the wagons abandoned and broken, a half of the 
horses and cattle gone since they had left the banks of 
the Columbia east of the mountains, the cattle leaning 
one against the other when they halted, the oxen stum 
bling and limping, the calluses of their necks torn, raw 
and bleeding from the swaying of the yokes on the 
rocky trail, their tongues out, their eyes glassy with the 
unspeakable toil they so long had undergone ; the loose 
wheels wabbling, the thin hounds rattling, the canvas 
sagged and stained, the bucket under each wagon 

349 



THE COVERED WAGON 

empty, the plow at each tail gate thumping in its lash 
ings of rope and hide the train of the covered wagons 
now had, indeed, won through. Now may the picture 
of our own Ark of Empire never perish from our 
minds. 

On the front seat of the lead wagon sat stout Molly 
Wingate and her husband. Little Molly s cart came 
next. Alongside the Caleb Price wagon, wherein now 
sat on the seat hugging a sore- footed dog whose raw 
hide boots had worn through a long-legged, barefoot 
girl who had walked twelve hundred miles since spring, 
trudged Jed Wingate, now grown from a tousled boy 
into a lean, self-reliant young man. His long whip 
was used in baseless threatenings now, for any driver 
must spare cattle such as these, gaunt and hollow-eyed. 
Tobacco protuberant in cheek, his feet half bare, his 
trousers ragged and fringed to the knee, his sleeves 
rolled up over brown and brawny arms, Jed Wingate 
now was enrolled on the list of men. 

"Gee-whoa-haw ! You Buck an* Star, git along 
there, damn ye !" So rose his voice, automatically but 
affectionately. 

Certain French Canadians, old-time engages of the 
fur posts, now become habitants, landowners, on their 
way home from Sunday chapel, hastened to summon 
others. 

"The families have come!" they called at the Falls, 
as they had at Portland town. 

But now, though safely enlarged at last of the con- 
350 



OREGON! OREGON! 

finement and the penalties of the wagon train, the 
emigrants, many of them almost destitute, none of them 
of great means, needed to cast about them at once for 
their locations and to determine what their occupations 
were to be. They scattered, each seeking his place, like 
new trout in a stream. 



CHAPTER XLI 

THE SECRETS OF THE SIERRAS 

SAM WOODHULL carried in his pocket the 
letter which Will Banion had left for Molly 
Wingate at Cassia Creek in the Snake Valley, 
where the Oregon road forked for California. There 
was no post office there, yet Banion felt sure that his 
letter would find its way, and it had done so, save for 
the treachery of this one man. Naught had been 
sacred to him. He had read the letter without an 
instant s hesitation, feeling that anything was fair in 
his love for this woman, in his war with this man. 
Woodhull resolved that they should not both live. 

He was by nature not so much a coward as a man 
without principle or scruple. He did not expect to be 
killed by Banion. He intended to use such means as 
would give Banion no chance. In this he thought him 
self fully justified, as a criminal always does. 

But hurry as he might, his overdriven teams were 
no match for the tireless desert horse, the wiry moun 
tain mount and the hardy mules of the tidy little pack 
train of Banion and his companion Jackson. These 
could go on steadily where wagons must wait. Their 
trail grew fainter as they gained. 

352 



THE SECRETS OF THE SIERRAS 

At last, at the edge of a waterless march of whose 
duration they could not guess, Woodhull and his party 
were obliged to halt. Here by great good fortune they 
were overtaken by the swift pack train of Greenwood 
and his men, hurrying back with fresh animals on their 
return march to California. The two companies 
joined forces. Woodhull now had a guide. Accord 
ingly when, after such dangers and hardships as then 
must be inevitable to men covering the gruesome trail 
between the Snake and the Sacramento, he found him 
self late that fall arrived west of the Sierras and in 
the gentler climate of the central valley, he looked about 
him with a feeling of exultation. Now, surely, fate 
would give his enemy into his hand. 

Men were spilling south into the valley of the San 
Joaquin, coming north with proofs of the Stanislaus, 
the Tuolumne, the Merced. Greenwood insisted on 
working north into the country where he had found 
gold, along all the tributaries of the Sacramento. Even 
then, too, before the great year of 49 had dawned, 
prospectors were pushing to the head of the creeks 
making into the American Fork, the Feather River, all 
the larger and lesser streams heading on the west slopes 
of the Sierras; and Greenwood even heard of a band 
of men who had stolen away from the lower diggings 
and broken off to the north and east some said, head 
ing far up for the Trinity, though that was all unproved 
country so far as most knew. 

And now the hatred in Woodhull s sullen heart grew 
353 



THE COVERED WAGON 

hotter still, for he heard that not fifty miles ahead there 
had passed a quiet dark young man, riding a black 
Spanish horse; with him a bearded man who drove a 
little band of loaded mules ! Their progress, so came 
the story, was up a valley whose head was impassable. 
The trail could not be obliterated back of them. They 
were in a trap of their own choosing. All that he 
needed was patience and caution. 

Ships and wagon trains came in on the Willamette 
from the East. They met the coast news of gold. 
Men of Oregon also left in a mad stampede for Cali 
fornia. News came that all the world now was in the 
mines of California. All over the East, as the later 
ships also brought in reiterated news, the mad craze of 
49 even then was spreading. 

But the men of 48 were in ahead. From them, 
scattering like driven game among the broken country 
over hundreds of miles of forest, plain, bench land 
and valley lands, no word could come out to the waiting 
world. None might know the countless triumphs, the 
unnumbered tragedies none ever did know. 

There, beyond the law, one man might trail another 
with murder stronger than avarice in his heart, and 
none ever be the wiser. To hide secrets such as thest; 
the un fathomed mountains reached out their shadowy 

arms. 

##*#### 

Now the winter wore on with such calendar as alti 
tude, latitude, longitude gave it, and the spring of 49 

354 



THE SECRETS OF THE SIERRAS 



THE COVERED WAGON 

"We ve done well, Jesse," at length said portly Molly 
Wingate. "Look at our place! A mile square, for 
nothing ! We ve done well, Jesse, I ll admit it." 

"For what?" answered Jesse Wingate. "What s it 
for? What has it come to? What s it all about?" 

He did not have any reply. When he turned he 
saw his wife wiping tears from her hard, lined face. 

"It s Molly," said she. 



CHAPTER XLII 

KIT CARSON RIDES 

FOLLOWING the recession of the snow, men 
began to push westward up the Platte in the 
great spring gold rush of 1849. In tne f re 
front of these, outpacing them in his tireless fashion, 
now passed westward the greatest traveler of his day, 
the hunter and scout, Kit Carson. The new post of 
Fort Kearny on the Platte ; the old one, Fort Laramie 
in the foothills of the Rockies he touched them soon 
as the grass was green; and as the sun warmed the 
bunch grass slopes of the North Platte and the Sweet- 
water, so that his horses could paw out a living, he 
crowded on westward. He was a month ahead of the 
date for the wagon trains at Fort Bridger. 

"How, Chardon!" said he as he drove in his two 
light packs, riding alone as was his usual way, evading 
Indian eyes as he of all men best knew how. 

"How, Kit! You re early. Why?" The trader s 
chief clerk turned to send a boy for Vasquez, Bridger s 
partner. "Light, Kit, and eat." 

"Where s Bridger?" demanded Carson. "I ve come 
out of my country to see him. I have government 
mail for Oregon." 

357 



THE COVERED WAGON 

"For Oregon? Mon Dieu! But Jeem" he spread 
out his hands "Jeem, he s dead, we ll think. We do 
not known. Now we know the gold news. Maybe-so 
we know why Jeem he s gone !" 

"Gone? When?" 

"Las H august-Settemb. H all of an at once he ll 
took the trail h after the h emigrant train las year. 
He ll caught him h on Fort Hall ; we ll heard. But then 
he go h on with those h emigrant beyon Hall, beyon the 
fork for Californ . He ll not come back. No one 
know what has become of Jeem. He ll been dead, 
maybe-so." 

"Yes ? Maybe-so not ! That old rat knows his way 
through the mountains, and he ll take his own time. 
You think he did not go on to California?" 

"We ll know he ll didn t." 

Carson stood and thought for a time. 

"Well, its bad for you, Chardon!" 

"How you mean, M sieu Kit?" 

"Eat your last square meal. Saddle your best horse. 
Drive four packs and two saddle mounts along." 

"Oui? And where?" 

"To Oregon!" 

"To Oregon? Sacre Fan! What you mean?" 

"By authority of the Government, I command you 
to carry this packet on to Oregon this season, as fast 
as safety may allow. Take a man with you two ; pick 
up any help you need. But go through. 

"I cannot go further west myself, for I must get 

358 



KIT CARSON RIDES 

back to Laramie. I had counted on Jim, and Jim s 
post must see me through. Make your own plans to 
start to-morrow morning. I ll arrange all that with 
Vasquez." 

"But, M sieu Kit, I cannot!" 

"But you shall, you must, you will! If I had a 
better man I d send him, but you are to do what Jim 
wants done." 

"Mais, oui, of course." 

"Yes. And you ll do what the President of the 
United States commands." 



"That packet is over the seal of the United States 
of America, Chardon. It carries the signature of the 
President. It was given to the Army to deliver. The 
Army has given it to me. I give it to you, and you 
must go. It is for Jim. He would know. It must be 
placed in the hands of the Circuit Judge acting under 
the laws of Oregon, whoever he may be, and wherever. 
Find him in the Willamette country. Your pay will 
be more than you think, Chardon. Jim would know. 
Dead or alive, you do this for him. 

"You can do thirty miles a day. I know you as 
a mountain man. Ride! To-morrow I start east to 
Laramie and you start west for Oregon !" 

And in the morning following two riders left 
Bridger s for the trail. They parted, each waving a 
hand to the other. 



359 



CHAPTER XLIII 

THE KILLER KILLED 

A ROUGH low cabin of logs, hastily thrown to 
gether, housed through the winter months of 
the Sierra foothills the two men who now, in 
the warm days of early June, sat by the primitive fire 
place cooking a midday meal. The older man, thin, 
bearded, who now spun a side of venison ribs on a 
cord in front of the open fire, was the mountain man, 
Bill Jackson, as anyone might tell who ever had seen 
him, for he had changed but little. 

That his companion, younger, bearded, dressed also 
in buckskins, was Will Banion it would have taken 
closer scrutiny even of a friend to determine, so much 
had the passing of these few months altered him in 
appearance and in manner. Once light of mien, now 
he smiled never at all. For hours he would seem to 
go about his duties as an automaton. He spoke at 
last to his ancient and faithful friend, kindly as ever, 
and with his own alertness and decision. 

"Let s make it our last meal on the Trinity, Bill. 
What do you say?" 

"Why? What s eatin ye, boy? Gittin restless 
agin?" 

360 



THE KILLER KILLED 

"Yes, I want to move." 

"Most does." 

"We ve got enough, Bill. The last month has been 
a crime. The spring snows uncovered a fortune for 
us, and you know it!" 

"Oh, yes, eight hundred In one day ain t bad for 
two men that never had saw a gold pan a year ago. 
But she ain t petered yit. With what we ve learned, an 
what we know, we kin stay in here an git so rich that 
hit shore makes me cry ter think o trappin beaver, even 
before 1836, when the beaver market busted. Why, 
rich ? Will, hit s like you say, plumb wrong we done 
hit so damned easy ! I lay awake nights plannin how 
ter spend my share o this pile. We must have fifty- 
sixty thousand dollars o dust buried under the floor, 
don t ye think?" 

"Yes, more. But if you ll agree, I ll sell this claim 
to the company below us and let them have the rest. 
They offer fifty thousand flat, and it s enough more 
than enough. I want two things to get Jim Bridger 
his share safe and sound ; and I want to go to Oregon." 

The old man paused in the act of splitting off a deer 
rib from his roast. 

"Ye re one awful damn fool, ain t ye, Will? I did 
hope ter finish up here, a-brilin my meat in a yaller- 
gold fireplace; but no matter how plain an simple a 
man s tastes is, allus somethin comes along ter bust 
em up." 

"Well, go on and finish your meal in this plain fire- 



THE COVERED WAGON 

place of ours, Bill. It has done us very well. I think 
I ll go down to the sluice a while." 

Banion rose and left the cabin, stooping at the low 
door. Moodily he walked along the side of the steep 
ravine to which the little structure clung. Below him 
lay the ripped-open slope where the little stream had 
been diverted. Below again lay the bared bed of the 
exploited water course, floored with bowlders set in 
deep gravel, at times with seamy dams of flat rock 
lying under and across the gravel stretches; the bed 
rock, ages old, holding in its hidden fingers the rich 
secrets of immemorial time. 

Here he and his partner had in a few months of 
strenuous labor taken from the narrow and unimport 
ant rivulet more wealth than most could save in a life 
time of patient and thrifty toil. Yes, fortune had been 
kind. And it all had been so easy, so simple, so un- 
agitating, so matter-of-fact! The hillside now looked 
like any other hillside, innocent as a woman s eyes, yet 
covering how much! Banion could not realize that 
now, young though he was, he was a rich man. 

He climbed down the side of the ravine, the little 
stones rattling under his feet, until he stood on the 
bared floor of the bed rock which had proved so un 
believably prolific in coarse gold. 

There was a sharp bend in the ravine, and here the 
unpaid toil of the little waterway had, ages long, carried 
and left especially deep strata of gold-shot gravel. As 
he stood, half musing, Will Banion heard, on the ravine 

362 



THE KILLER KILLED 

side around the bend, the tinkle of a falling stone, lazily 
rolling from one impediment to another. It might be 
some deer or other animal, he thought. He hastened to 
get view of the cause, whatever it might be. 

And then fate, chance, the goddess of fortune which 
some men say does not exist, but which all wilderness- 
goers know does exist, for one instant paused, with 
Will Banion s life and wealth and happiness lightly 
a-balance in cold, disdainful fingers. 

He turned the corner. Almost level with his own, 
he looked into the eyes of a crawling man who 
stooped, one hand steadying himself against the slant 
of the ravine, the other below, carrying a rifle was 
peering frowningly ahead. 

It was an evil face, bearded, aquiline, not unhand 
some; but evil in its plain meaning now. The eyes 
were narrowed, the full lips drawn close, as though 
some tense emotion now approached its climax. The 
appearance was that of strain, of nerves stretched in 
some purpose long sustained. 

And why not? When a man would do murder, 
when that has been his steady and premeditated pur 
pose for a year, waiting only for opportunity to serve 
his purpose, that purpose itself changes his very linea 
ments, alters his whole cast of countenance. Other 
men avoid him, knowing unconsciously what is in his 
soul, because of what is written on his face. 

For months most men had avoided Woodhull. It 
was known that he was on a man hunt. His questions, 

363 



THE COVERED WAGON 

his movements, his changes of locality showed that; 
and Woodhull was one of those who cannot avoid 
asseverance, needing it for their courage sake. 
Now morose and brooding, now loudly profane, now 
laughing or now aloof, his errand in these unknown 
hills was plain. Well, he was not along among men 
whose depths were loosed. Some time his hour might 
come. 

It had come ! He stared now full into the face of his 
enemy! He at last had found him. Here stood his 
enemy, unarmed, delivered into his hands. 

For one instant the two stood, staring into one an 
other s eyes. Banion s advance had been silent. Wood- 
hull was taken as much unawares as he. 

It had been Woodhull s purpose to get a stand above 
the sluices, hidden by the angle, where he could com 
mand the reach of the stream bed where Banion and 
Jackson last had been working. He had studied the 
place before, and meant to take no chances. His shot 
must be sure. 

But now, in his climbing on the steep hillside, his 
rifle was in his left hand, downhill, and his footing, 
caught as he was with one foot half raised, was in 
secure. At no time these last four hours had his op 
portunity been so close or so poor as precisely now ! 
He saw Will Banion s eyes, suddenly startled, quickly 
estimating, looking into his own. He knew that be 
hind his own eyes his whole foul soul lay bared the 
soul of a murderer. 

364 



THE KILLER KILLED 

Woodhull made a swift spring down the hill, scrambl 
ing, half erect, and caught some sort of stance for the 
work which now was his to do. He snarled, for he 
saw Banion stoop, unarmed. It would do his victim no 
good to run. There was time even to exult, and that 
was much better in a long-deferred matter such as this. 

"Now, damn you, I ve got you !" 

He gave Banion that much chance to see that he was 
now to die. 

Half leaning, he raised the long rifle to its line and 
touched the trigger. 

The report came; and Banion fell. But even as he 
wheeled and fell, stumbling down the hillside, his flung 
arm apparently had gained a weapon. It was not more 
than the piece of rotten quartz he had picked up and 
planned to examine later. He flung it straight at 
Woodhull s face an act of chance, of instinct. By 
a hair it saved him. 

Firing and missing at a distance of fifty feet, Wood- 
hull remained not yet a murderer in deed. In a flash 
Banion gathered and sprang toward him as he stood 
in a half second of consternation at seeing his victim 
fall and rise again. The rifle carried but the one shot. 
He flung it down, reached for his heavy knife, raising 
an arm against the second piece of rock which Banion 
flung as he closed. He felt his wrist caught in an 
iron grip, felt the blood gush where his temple was cut 
by the last missile. And then once more, on the narrow 
bared floor that but now was patterned in parquetry 

365 



THE COVERED WAGON 

traced in yellow, and soon must turn to red, it came 
to man and man between them and it was free ! 

They fell and stumbled so that neither could much 
damage the other at first. Banion knew he must keep 
the impounded hand back from the knife sheath or he 
was done. Thus close, he could make no escape. He 
fought fast and furiously, striving to throw, to bend, 
to beat back the body of a man almost as strong as 
himself, and now a maniac in rage and fear. 

The sound of the rifle shot rang through the little 
defile. To Jackson, shaving off bits of sweet meat be 
tween thumb and knife blade, it meant the presence of 
a stranger, friend or foe, for he knew Banion had 
carried no weapon with him. His own long rifle he 
snatched from its pegs. At a long, easy lope he ran 
along the path which carried across the face of the 
ravine. His moccasined feet made no sound. He saw 
no one in the creek bed or at the long turn. But new 
there came a loud, wordless cry which he knew was 
meant for him. It was Will Banion s voice. 

The two struggling men grappled below him had no 
notion of how long they had fought. It seemed an age, 
and the denouement yet another age deferred. But 
to them came the sound of a voice : 

"Git away, Will! Stand back!" 

It was Jackson. 

They both, still gripped, looked up the bank. The 
long barrel of a rifle, foreshortened to a black point, 

366 



THE KILLER KILLED 

above it a cold eye, fronted and followed them as they 
swayed. The crooked arm of the rifleman was mo 
tionless, save as it just moved that deadly cricle an 
inch this way, an inch back again. 

Banion knew that this was murder, too, but he knew 
that naught on earth could stay it now. To guard as 
much as he could against a last desperate knife thrust 
even of a dying man, he broke free and sprang back as 
far as he could, falling prostrate on his back as he did 
so, tripped by an unseen stone. But Sam Woodhull 
was not upon him now, was not willing to lose his own 
life in order to kill. For just one instant he looked 
up at the death staring down on him, then turned to 
run. 

There was no place where he could run. The voice 
of the man above him called out sharp and hard. 

"Halt ! Sam Woodhull, look at me !" 

He did turn, in horror, in fascination at sight of the 
Bright Angel. The rifle barrel to his last gaze became 
a small, round circle, large as a bottle top, and around 
it shone a fringed aura of red and purple light. That 
might have been the eye. 

Steadily as when he had held his friend s life in his 
hand, sighting five inches above his eyes, the old hunter 
drew now above the eyes of his enemy. When the dry 
report cut the confined air of the valley, the body of 
Sam Woodhull started forward. The small blue hole 
an inch above the eyes showed the murderer s man hunt 
done. 

367 



CHAPTER XLIV 

YET IF LOVE LACK 

WINDING down out of the hills into the 
grassy valley of the Upper Sacramento, the 
little pack train of Banion and Jackson, six 
hardy mules beside the black horse and Jackson s 
mountain pony, picked its way along a gashed and 
trampled creek bed. The kyacks which swung heavy 
on the strongest two mules might hold salt or lead or 
gold. It all was one to any who might have seen, and 
the two silent men, the younger ahead, the older be 
hind, obviously were men able to hold their counsel 
or to defend their property. 

The smoke of a distant encampment caught the keen 
eye of Jackson as he rode, humming, care- free, the 
burden of a song. 

"Oh, then, Susannah !" admonished the old mountain 
man, and bade the said Susannah to be as free of care 
as he himself then and there was. 

"More men comin in," said he presently. "Wonder 
who them people is, an ef hit s peace er war." 

"Three men. A horse band. Two Indians. Go in 
easy, Bill." 

Banion slowed down his own gait. His companion 
had tied the six mules together, nose and tail, with the 

368 



YET IF LOVE LACK 

halter of the lead mule wrapped on his own saddle 
horn. Each man now drew his rifle from the swing 
loop. But they advanced with the appearance of con 
fidence, for it was evident that they had been discovered 
by the men of the encampment. 

Apparently they were identified as well as dis 
covered. A tall man in leggings and moccasions, a flat 
felt hat over his long gray hair, stood gazing at them, 
his rifle butt resting on the ground. Suddenly he 
emitted an unearthly yell, whether of defiance or of 
greeting, and springing to his own horse s picket pin 
gathered in the lariat, and mounting bareback came on, 
his rifle high above his head, and repeating again and 
again his war cry or salutation. 

Jackson rose in his stirrups, dropped his lead line 
and forsook more than a hundred and fifty thousand 
dollars some two mule-pack loads of gold. His own 
yell rose high in answer. 

"I told ye all the world d be here!" he shouted back 
over his shoulder. "Do-ee see that old thief Jim 
Bridger? Him I left drunk an happy last summer? 
Now what in hell brung him here?" 

The two old mountain men flung off and stood hand 
in hand before Banion had rescued the precious lead 
line and brought on the little train. 

Bridger threw his hat on the ground, flung down 
his rifle and cast his stoic calm aside. Both his hands 
caught Banion s and his face beamed, breaking into a 
thousand lines. 

369 



THE COVERED WAGON 

"Boy, hit s you, then! I knowed yer hoss he has 
no like in these parts. I ve traced ye by him this hun 
dred miles below an up agin, but I ve had no word this 
two weeks. Mostly I ve seed that, when ye ain t lookin 
fer a b ar, thar he is. Well, here we air, fine an fitten, 
an* me with two bottles left o somethin they call 
coggnac down in Yerba Buena. Come on in an* we ll 
make medicine." 

They dismounted. The two Indians, short, deep- 
chested, bow-legged men, went to the packs. They 
gruntled as they unloaded the two larger mules. 

The kyacks were lined up and the mantas spread over 
them, the animals led away for feed and water. Bridger 
produced a ham of venison, some beans, a bannock and 
some coffee not to mention his two bottles of fiery 
fluid before any word was passed regarding future 
plans or past events. 

"Come here, Jim,," said Jackson after a time, tin 
cup in hand. The other followed him, likewise 
equipped. 

"Heft this pannier, Jim." 

"Uh-huh? Well, what of hit? What s inter hit?" 

"Not much, Jim. Jest three- four hunderd pounds o 
gold settin there in them four packs. Hit hain t much, 
but hit ll help some." 

Bridger stooped and uncovered the kyacks, un 
buckled the cover straps. 

"Hit s a true fack!" he exclaimed. "Gold! Ef hit 
hain t, I m a putrified liar, an that s all I got to say! 

370 



YET IF LOVE LACK 

Now, little by little, they told, each to other, the story 
of the months since they had met, Bridger first ex 
plaining his own movements. 

"I left the Malheur at Boise, an* brung along yan two 
boys. Ye needn t be a-skeered they ll touch the cargo. 
The gold means nothin ter em, but horses does. We ve 
got a good band ter drive north now. Some we bought 
an most they stole, but no rancher cares fer horses 
here an now. 

"We come through the Klamaths, ye see, an on 
south the old horse trail up from the Spanish country, 
which only the Injuns knows. My boys say they kin 
take us ter the head o the Willamette. 

"So ye did get the gold! Eh, sir?" said Bridger, his 
eyes narrowing. "The tip the gal give ye was a good 
one?" 

"Yes," rejoined Banion. "But we came near losing 
it and more. It was Woodhull, Jim. He followed us 
in." 

"Yes, I know. His wagons was not fur behind ye 
on the Humboldt. He left right atter ye did. He made 
trouble, huh ? He ll make no more ? Is that hit, huh ?" 

Bill Jackson slapped the stock of his rifle in silence. 
Bridger nodded. He had been close to tragedies all his 
life. They told him now of this one. He nodded again, 
close lipped. 

"An ye want courts an* the settlements, boys ?" said 
he. "Fer me, when I kill a rattler, that s enough. Ef 
ye re touchy an* want yer ree-cord clean, why, we kin 

371 



THE COVERED WAGON 

go below an fix hit. Only thing is, I don t want ter 
waste no more time n I kin help, fer some o them 
horses has a ree-cord that ain t maybe so plumb clean 
their own selves. Ye ain t goin out east ye re goin 
north. Hit s easier, an a month er two closter, with 
plenty o feed an water the old Cayuse trail, huh? 

"So Sam Woodhull got what he s been lookin fer so 
long!" he added presently. "Well, that simples up 
things some." 

"He d o got hit long ago, on the Platte, ef my part 
ner hadn t been a damned fool," confirmed Jackson. 
"He was where we could a buried him nach erl, in the 
sands. I told Will then that Woodhull d murder him 
the fust chancet he got. Well, he did er ef he didn t 
hit wasn t no credit ter either one o them two." 

"What differ does hit make, Bill?" remarked Bridger 
indifferently. "Let bygones be bygones, huh? That s 
the pleasantest way, sence he s dead. 

"Now here we air, with all the gold there ever was 
molded, an a hull two bottles o coggnac left, which 
takes holt e enamost better n Hundson s Bay rum. 
Ain t it a perty leetle ol world to play with, all with 
nice pink stripes erroun hit?" 

He filled his tin and broke into a roaring song : 

There was a ol wldder which had three sons 

Joshuway, James an John. 
An one got shot, an one got drowned f 
An th last un got lasted an never was found 

"Ain t hit funny, son," said he, turning to Banion 
372 



YET IF LOVE LACK 

with cup uplifted, "how stiff likker allus makes me re 
member what I done f ergot? Now Kit told me, thar 
at Laramie " 

"Per I m goin* out to Oregon, with my wash pan on 
my knee !" chanted Bill Jackson, now solemnly oblivious 
of most of his surroundings and hence not consciously 
discourteous to his friends ; "Susannah, don t ye cry !" 

They sat, the central figures of a scene wild enough, 
in a world still primitive and young. Only one of the 
three remained sober and silent, wondering, if one 
thing lacked, why the world was made. 



CHAPTER XLV 

THE LIGHT OF THE WHOLE WORLD 

AT THE new farm of Jesse Wingate on the 
Yamhill the wheat was in stack and ready for 
the flail, his deer-skin sacks made ready to 
carry it to market after the threshing. His grim 
and weather-beaten wagon stood, now unused, at 
the barnyard fence of rails. 

It was evening. Wingate and his wife again sat on 
their little stoop, gazing down the path that led to the 
valley road. A mounted man was opening the gate, 
someone they did not recognize. 

"Maybe from below," said Molly Wingate. "Jed s 
maybe sent up another letter. Leave it to him, he s 
going to marry the most wonderful girl! Well, I ll 
call it true, she s a wonderful walker. All the Prices 
was." 

"Or maybe it s for Molly," she added. "Ef she s 
ever heard a word from either Sam Woodhull or " 

"Hush ! I do not want to hear that name !" broke in 
her husband. "Trouble enough he has made for us!" 

His wife made no comment for a moment, still 
watching the stranger, who was now riding up the long 
approach, little noted by Wingate as he sat, moody and 
distrait. 

374 



THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD 

"Jess," said she, "let s be fair and shame the devil. 
Maybe we don t know all the truth about Will Banion. 
You go in the house. I ll tend to this man, whoever he 
may be." 

But she did not. With one more look at the ad 
vancing figure, she herself rose and followed her hus 
band. As she passed she cast a swift glance at her 
daughter, who had not joined them for the twilight 
hour. Hers was the look of the mother maternal, 
solicitious, yet wise and resolved withal ; woman under 
standing woman. And now was the hour for her ewe 
lamb to be alone. 

Molly Wingate sat in her own little room, looking 
through her window at the far forest and the mountain 
peaks in their evening dress of many colors. She was 
no longer the tattered emigrant girl in fringed frock 
and mended moccasins. Ships from the world s great 
ports served the new market of the Columbia Valley. 
It was a trim and trig young woman in the habiliments 
of sophisticated lands who sat here now, her heavy hair, 
piled high, lighted warmly in the illumination of the 
window. Her skin, clear white, had lost its sunburn in 
the moister climate between the two ranges of moun 
tains. Quiet, reticent, reserved cold, some said; but 
all said Molly Wingate, teacher at the mission school, 
was beautiful, the most beautiful young woman in all 
the great Willamette settlements. Her hands were in 
her lap now, and her face as usual was grave. A sad 
young woman, her Oregon lovers all said of her. They 

375 



THE COVERED WAGON 

did not know why she should be sad, so fit for love was 
she. 

She heard now a knock at the front door, to which; 
from her position, she could not have seen anyone ap 
proach. She called out, "Come !" but did not turn her 
head. 

A horse stamped, neighed near her door. Her face 
changed expression. Her eyes grew wide in some 
strange association of memories suddenly revived. 

She heard a footfall on the gallery floor, then on 
the floor of the hall. It stopped. Her heart almost 
stopped with it. Some undiscovered sense warned her, 
cried aloud to her. She faced the door, wide-eyed, 
as it was flung open. 

"Molly!" 

Will Banion s deep-toned voice told her all the rest. 
In terror, her hands to her face, she stood an instant, 
then sprang toward him, her voice almost a wail in its 
incredulous joy. 

"Will! Will! Oh, Will! Oh! Oh!" 

"Molly!" 

They both paused. 

"It can t be ! Oh, you frightened me, Will ! It can t 
be you!" 

But he had her in his arms now. At first he could 
only push back her hair, stroke her cheek, until at last 
the rush of life and youth came back to them both, and 
their lips met in the sealing kiss of years. Then both 
were young again. She put up a hand to caress his 

376 



THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD 

brown cheek. Tenderly he pushed back her hair. 

"Will! Oh, Will! It can t be !" she whispered again 
and again. 

"But it is! It had to be! Now I m paid! Now 
I ve found my fortune !" 

"And I ve had my year to think it over, Will. As 
though the fortune mattered!" 

"Not so much as that one other thing that kept you 
and me apart. Now I must tell you " 

"No, no, let be ! Tell me nothing ! Will, aren t you 
here?" 

"But I must ! You must hear me ! I ve waited two 
years for this !" 

"Long, Will ! You ve let me get old !" 

"You old?" He kissed her in contempt of time. 
"But now wait, dear, for I must tell you. 

"You see, coming up the valley I met the Clerk of 
the Court of Oregon City, and he knew I was headed 
up for the Yamhill. He asked me to serve as his mes 
senger. I ve been sending up through all the valley 
settlements in search of one William Banion, he said 
to me. Then I told him who I was. He gave me this." 

"What is it?" She turned to her lover. He held in 
his hands a long package, enfolded in an otter skin. 
"Is it a court summons for Will Banion? They can t 
have you, Will !" 

He smiled, her head held between his two hands. 

" I have a very important document for Colonel Wil 
liam Banion/ the clerk said to me. It has been for some 

377 



THE COVERED WAGON 

time in our charge, for delivery to him at once should 
he come into the Oregon settlements. It is from His 
Excellency, the President of the United States. Such 
messages do not wait. Seeing it of such importance, 
and knowing it to be military, Judge Lane opened it, 
since we could not trace the addressee. If you like 
if you are, indeed, Colonel William Banion that was 
what he said." 

He broke off, choking. 

"Ah, Molly, at last and indeed I am again William 
Banion !" 

He took from the otter skin which Chardon once 
had placed over the oilskin used by Carson to protect 
it the long and formal envelope of heavy linen. His 
finger pointed "On the Service of the United States." 

"Why, Will!" 

He caught the envelope swiftly to his lips, holding it 
there an instant before he could speak. 

"My pardon! From the President! Not guilty 
oh, not guilty! And I never was!" 

"Oh, Will, Will! That makes you happy?" 

"Doesn t it you?" 

"Why, yes, yes! But I knew that always! And I 
know now that I d have followed you to the gallons 
if that had had to be." 

"Though I were a thief?" 

"Yes! But I d not believe it! I didn t! I never 
did! I could not!" 

"You d take my word against all the world just 

378 



THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD 

my word, if I told you it wasn t true? You d want no 
proof at all? Will you always believe in me in that 
way? No proof?" 

"I want none now. You do tell me that ? No, no ! 
I m afraid you d give me proofs! I want none! I 
want to love you for what you are, for what we both 
are, Will! I m afraid!" 

He put his hands on her shoulders, held her away 
arms length, looked straight into her eyes. 

"Dear girl," said he, "you need never be afraid any 
more." 

She put her head down contentedly against his 
shoulder, her face nestling sidewise, her eyes closed, her 
arms again quite around his neck. 

"I don t care, Will," said she. "No, no, don t talk 
of things !" 

He did not talk. In the sweetness of the silence he 
kissed her tenderly again and again. 

And now the sun might sink. The light of the whole 
world Jby no means died with it. 

00) 



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